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.
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!