Tomato Heaven

South Jersey bursts with its famous tomatoes this time of year, and I’m always looking for new ways to take advantage of them.

My social media feed gives me plenty of inspiration.

A recipe that often pops up in assorted variations is panzanella salad, an Italian combo of juicy, ripe tomatoes with dried bread.

Although the recipes sound delicious, I’m put off by the idea of soggy bread. However, a few days ago, a Facebook friend shared a photo of panzanella that she made with crispy homemade croutons and a variety of vegetables, including my all-time favorite — arugula.

Taking her cue, I cubed a hearty loaf of French bread, brushed it with olive oil and seasonings and toasted it in the oven.

I combined chunks of luscious red Jersey tomatoes, crisp cucumbers from my dad’s garden, peppery arugula, torn basil, pitted Kalamata olives and balsamic vinaigrette and mixed in the croutons. You can also add sliced bell peppers, red or white onions and other vegetables.

I loved that the croutons picked up the flavors from the salad without getting soggy.

Thanks to my Facebook friend, we had a simple but delicious meal on a sizzling summer night.

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