This rendition of the classic Italian tomato-and-bread salad is best served with spoons so that guests can savor every last drop.
1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 tbsp. butter
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
Half a baguette or other good bread, cut into 1⁄2"
3–4 lbs. any and all kinds and colors of the best
vine-ripened tomatoes available
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 handful fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Heat 1⁄4 cup of the oil and butter together in a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. When butter has melted, remove skillet from heat and add garlic and bread cubes and mix well. Place skillet in oven and bake until bread cubes are golden and crisp, 10-15 minutes. Remove skillet from oven and set aside to cool.
2. Meanwhile, prepare the tomatoes: If using cherry tomatoes, remove stems and slice in half. For larger tomatoes, core and slice into medium cubes. Put tomatoes in a large bowl, add vinegar and remaining 1⁄4 cup oil, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix well.
3. Shortly before serving, toss bread and basil with the tomatoes. Adjust seasonings. Spoon panzanella into each of four shallow soup bowls and garnish with sprigs of basil, if you like.