‘Bread is the foundation of all other foods’, wrote sixteenth-century Florentine writer Domenico Romoli. The large round loaves of traditional unsalted Tuscan bread lasted so long, Tuscans soon learnt how to make stale bread taste wonderful. In a marvellous bit of early cross-merchandising, they also made good use of their equally beloved olive oil.
Slice the bread thickly and cut off the crusts. Grill until brown on both sides, then tear into chunky cubes and set aside.
Dunk tomatoes in boiling water for a few seconds, then peel and cut in half. Hold the tomatoes over a strainer over a bowl, squeeze gently to remove juice and seeds. Cut tomatoes into chunks and set aside.
Add garlic, capers and anchovies, salt and pepper to the strained tomato juice and mash well. Add olive oil and red wine vinegar and stir. Pour dressing over bread and leave for one hour.
Grill or roast the peppers until blackened and blistered. Peel off skin, cut in half, deseed, and cut each half into strips. Place some soaked bread on the bottom of a large bowl, and top with some of the tomatoes, the garlic-anchovy paste, pepper strips, olives and torn basil leaves. Add more bread, and a final layer of all ingredients, and leave for an hour at room temperature. Serve with an extra drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
© 1998 All rights reserved. Published by Murdoch Books.