I was hoping to be able to make this a little later with some glorious tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers from my own garden, but I have been thwarted. The peppers are still flowers, the cucumbers are about the size of a toothpick with a flower on the end, and half the tomatoes have been eaten by some sort of insect. Damn the garden gods! Next year I will actually read about this before randomly sticking plants in pots and hoping for the best.
More than anything I have ever made, this is the recipe that people ask about the most. Here is my best shot of writing it down, but please note, that this is one of those things that you can change based on what you like and what you have around with no problems at all. It's really more of a guideline than a rule.
1 loaf sourdough bread cut into 1 inch cubes (I also use French or Italian based on what's available. I would not recommend using a baguette if for no other reason that it would be a huge pain to cut into pieces. You also want something with a little more middle of the loaf than a baguette would have.)
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved and salted (Just put the cut tomatoes in a bowl with a pinch of salt, stir well, and let sit for about 15 minutes. This helps bring out the tomato flavor and gets some of the water pulled out. Any type of tomato would work and using different colored tomatoes just adds to the beauty of the salad.)
1/2 seedless cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into pieces
1/2 red onion, finely diced
8-12 0z of mozzarella, cut into cubes (You can also use the mini mozzarella balls whose name is escaping me.)
1/3 c. basil, cut into thin strips
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
1 c. + 1 Tb. olive oil
1/3 c. balsamic vinegar
1 Tb. Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 400. Place bread cubes and all crumbs from cutting them, onto a baking sheet. Drizzle the cubes with 1 Tb. olive oil. Sprinkle dried herbs and garlic powder evenly over the bread with a big pinch of salt and pepper. Toss together until cubes are well coated. You want to make sure to use the garlic powder and dried herbs instead of fresh because the fresh will burn while baking. Bake the cubes for 7 - 15 minutes until crisp, but not rock hard. Shake the tray occasionally to ensure none burn. When fully cooked, let them cool completely.
In a small bowl, combine remainder of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, and fresh garlic. Stir until well combined and set aside.
In a large bowl place (in this order) red onion, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, mozzarella. The salad can sit for about an hour in the fridge until the cubes cool. Add the bread cubes, drizzle with dressing, and toss well. Add basil and toss again. Taste the bread cubes and adjust seasoning as necessary. Depending on the bread, you may need additional dressing. Let sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.
You can also add capers or black olives, if desired. I generally stay away from this, but it's a personal choice. You can also add pieces of cooked chicken if you'd like a bit heavier salad. This holds up really well for about two days in the fridge, but Matt will never eat it the day after. He thinks it tastes funny, but I think he's crazy.