This is an ingenious and delicious way to use up yesterday’s bread. Many cuisines transform day-old bread into similar salads, as well as bread soups and more.
With real Tuscan bread, which is firm and dense, the day-old bread is soaked in cold water, then squeezed dry. Because most bread we get here is less dense, I’ve soaked the bread more quickly and then marinated it in a vinegar and olive oil dressing, which soaks in nicely.
1 long loaf (12inches) good Italian bread, day-old
1cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and sliced
With a long serrated bread knife, cut the loaf of bread into cubes. Place the bread in a large bowl and drizzle with very cold water, tossing gently and using just enough to lightly coat all the cubes, without drowning the bread. Let the bread stand until it is moistened but not mushy. This can take as little as 3 minutes or as long as 10 for denser bread. Working with a handful at a time, gently squeeze out all possible excess water from the bread; place it in a bowl or on a large plate. The bread should still remain in pieces, not be mashed to a mush. Set the bread aside while you prepare the vegetables.
Place the cucumber, bell pepper, onion, olives, and capers in a large bowl and toss with a wooden spoon to mix. In a 2-cup glass measure, measure out the oil and vinegar and add the garlic, herbs, and salt and pepper. Whisk or stir vigorously with a fork to blend. Stir in the diced tomatoes.
Place about half of the bread in a glass serving bowl or salad bowl. Top with half of the vegetables. Give the tomato dressing another stir and pour half of it over everything. Repeat, layering the remaining bread, vegetables, and dressing. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.
Remove the salad from the refrigerator a few minutes before serving. Toss the ingredients gently with a large rubber spatula. Taste and correct all seasonings, adding more salt, pepper, basil, thyme, and chives, if needed. Serve, passing cruets of olive oil and vinegar plus a pepper mill at the table.