Rustic olive, tomato and bread salad

Here is a recipe for a side dish that is rustic and tasty.  Preparation is less than ten minutes, with a 20-25 minute baking time.  I prepared a smaller portion, but this is one recipe that can be sized up to make a large party platter.  The key to this recipe is the balsamic vinegar. By using parchment paper or a silpat mat, cleanup will be easy and fast. Perfect for an appetizer party, an Italian dinner, or even for March Madness.

To make the salad:  Gather 1 box of small grape tomatoes, one small round loaf of ciabatta or French bread, olive oil, 1/2 jar of green olives, 2/3 can black olives, balsamic vinegar, minced garlic to taste, kosher salt and ground black pepper.

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First, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat mat.  Arrange tomatoes on the pan and lightly drizzle with olive oil.  Prepare a second baking sheet with the bread, which has been cubed, drizzled with oil and seasoned with pepper.  Bake both pans for about 15-20 minutes, while watching and stirring during the baking process.  Remove from the oven.

While the pans are baking, in a small bowl mix 2 tablespoons olive oil, with 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper.  Next, transfer the bread, and olives to the tomato pan.  Pour mixture from the bowl over everything and return to the oven for 5-7 minutes to heat the olives and meld the flavors of the salad.

Variations include: using a variety of colorful cherry tomatoes, a variety of olives, and different breads.  Various balsamic vinegars are also available at the market which would change the flavor profile.

Toss everything well and serve on a platter.  Garnish with parsley flakes if desired.  Delicious!

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