A salad that is very much more than the sum of its parts – bread, tomatoes, anchovies and basil come together in a surprisingly elegant way. A little chef’s tip – don’t tell picky eaters about the anchovies in the dressing before they’ve taken a bite. They’ll never guess. [That little trick worked on my anchovy-phobic flatmate.]
Although, however elegant it looks, this salad always reminds me of my first time preparing squid - for a medical student, I am suprisingly seafood-squeamish. Cue plastic bags over my hands and lots of hysterical squealing and gagging. YUM.
Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as an impressive lunch
One stale baguette loaf
5 tomatoes (diced), or two handfuls of cherry tomatoes (halved)
A big bunch of basil
1 red onion, sliced finely
1 red pepper, diced
1 tbsp capers
2 cloves garlic, minced
Roughly 60ml extra virgin olive oil
Roughly 30-40ml good quality balsamic vinegarSalt and pepper, to taste
Slice the baguette into inch-sized chunks and spread out on a baking sheet. Toast for about 10 minutes in a low oven, until slightly golden and crisp.
In a pestle and mortar, grind together the anchovies and garlic, with a little olive oil, to form a paste. Whisk in the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, making sure to taste test it, adjusting it to suit your palate, and season.
Toss together the bread, tomatoes, red onion, pepper and capers, and add a big handful of torn basil leaves – I’m very much a ‘the more the merrier’ person when it comes to basil, but as this is typically an Italian peasant staple food, there’s no strict guidelines to quantities. Try not to combine the salad more than 20 minutes before you serve it, otherwise the bread will absorb too much moisture.
Either cut the squid into rings, or cut the quid in half lengthways, and score on a diagonal. Season with salt and pepper.
Toss the salad with the dressing, trying to ensure an even, light coating. Cook the squid very quickly on a very hot griddle pan, with a splash of oil, for a few minutes at most. Serve perched on top of the salad.