I'll let you in on a secret, only if you promise not to laugh: I haven't been using my barbecue throughout most of the summer. Not since propane ran out while I was cooking this salmon, in fact. Silly, I know, but I have a fear of changing propane tanks. Sillier still, I work with natural gas on a daily basis and have lit my fair share of pilot lights. Heck, I even know what a thermal coupler is!
Nope, that tank was empty all summer. You maybe even wondered why I wasn't featuring more grilled dishes, but were too polite to ask. Given that there's no man action around the place to take care of such jobs, I had to suck up my crazy phobia and figure it out, eventually.
Not sure why I thought changing a propane tank was so darn complicated, or why I had visions of myself being blown to smithereens, but in the end all I had to do was unscrew the tank (thanks to Tara's bf for giving such an excellent demo!). That was the easy part! Trucking it to Canadian Tire, while it rolled around in the trunk, freaked me out big time. Driving with a full tank of propane in the passenger seat, also super freaky! Home re-attached to the barbecue, not so freaky. Whew! That was intense. And all so I could make this salad.
When I was first learning to cook for myself, way way back then, I ate this salad, or a version of it, loads. Who knew toasted stale bread with heaps of fresh tomatoes and basil could be so delicious? Plus I was a student and perpetually broke, so this cheap and cheerful salad kind of made my summer. Years later, it still does.
Grilled vegetables and feta add a more sophisticated turn to the salad. Everywhere I look I see zucchini (still!) so I grilled that up, and some red onion too. (I'm super happy my barbecue is back in business!) But peppers, eggplant would also be fabulous. Tossed with heaps of glorious tomatoes and scattered with my favourite herb, this salad is a lovely way to showcase the best of the best vegetables. Switch things up and add goat cheese and other herbs too. Just be sure not to use junky white bread. Get thee to a good bakery and buy a nice crusty loaf of Italian, or baguette, or even sourdough. The bread I used had whole cloves of roasted garlic in it - amazing stuff. Rustic and fresh, with all kinds of flavours running around, this salad was totally worth the freaky drive with the propane tank in the passenger seat.
Grilled Italian Bread Salad with Basil and Feta
2 small zucchini sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
1 small red onion, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
1 red or yellow pepper, quartered
1/4 cup olive oil
4 slices Italian bread, preferable day old, 1 inch thick
4 tomatoes, quartered
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup shredded fresh basil
Preheat your barbecue to medium. Brush the vegetables with 1 tbsp of oil. Lightly oil the grill and barbecue the vegetables, turning often until tender, 3 minutes or so. Remove each piece as it is done. Grill the bread until it is toasted, about 2 minutes per side. Chop the bread and vegetables, combine with tomatoes in large bowl. Whisk remaining oil with garlic and balsamic vinegar, seasoning it with salt and pepper. Drizzle over bread mixture, tossing to coat. Transfer to platter and scatter the feta and basil. Serve immediately. Serves 4. Adapted from Chatelaine.
And lastly, aren't my Lemon Boy tomatoes just lovely? They taste super sweet, and were perfect in this salad.