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“I can’t resist a mix of corpulent, knobbly, multicolored heirloom tomatoes,” Odette Williams writes in her new cookbook, Simple Pasta. And with names like Cherokee Purple, Dwarf Emerald Giant, Ferris Wheel, Speckled Roman, Anna Russian and Lucky Cross (to mention a few), we can’t either. We’re making her heirloom tomato, basil and olive crouton plate until summer is over.
Reprinted with permission from Simple Pasta by Odette Williams, copyright © 2022. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.
4 cups cubed olive bread, ciabatta or sourdough (½-inch cubes)
⅔ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 cup basil leaves, plus more for garnishing
1½ pounds mixed heirloom tomatoes, cut into ¼- to ½-inch-thick slices
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or champagne vinegar
Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, for garnishing
Maldon smoked sea salt or flaky sea salt
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Place the bread cubes on a baking sheet and pour ⅓ cup of the olive oil over them, using your hands to help coat the bread. Bake for 5 minutes, then give them a shake, flip them over and cook until golden and lightly crisp, 5 to 7 minutes more. Remove from the oven; when they’re cool enough to handle, chop the croutons in a mixture of different sizes: some chunky, some small and fine.
3. Finely chop the basil, transfer to a small bowl and stir in the remaining ⅓ cup olive oil. Pour half the basil-oil mixture into a larger bowl, add about half the croutons to it and toss to coat.
4. Spread the remaining basil oil across a large serving platter. Place the sliced tomatoes on top. Season with the kosher salt, pepper and the vinegar so each tomato gets a few drops. Scatter the basil-soaked croutons over everything and follow with the remaining croutons.
5. Serve the salad garnished with basil leaves, Parmesan, more pepper and a sprinkling of sea salt.