How to make a delicious vegetarian meal out of stale bread and whatever vegetables you have around (and, yes, there's a vegetarian food recipe)

I adore baguettes. Yes, I know, I should be eating whole grain breads. And I do. But at least every week or two, I must have a baguette.

It makes the most amazing garlic bread. It makes incredible salad sandwiches (You've never heard of my famous salad sandwiches? Well, let me tell you, you take all the stuff you would put in a salad and put it inside a toasted baguette with a good dose of extra virgin olive oil and grated parmegiano-reggaino). And, cut on the diagonal, it makes the second best French toast (first best is challah which is even closer to white bread than the baguette, alas).

But the best thing you can make from baguette does not happen until after it has gone stale.

Thanks to those clever Italians, I bring you ...
Food recipe: Panzanella
Cut your stale baguette into generous bite-size chunks. For extra flavor, you can toast them (I rarely do, but, then, I seem to only make this when I am already wickedly hungry) with extra virgin olive oil, minced garlic cloves (I'd use a 6 - 8 garlic cloves for half a loaf, but I adore garlic), and sea salt. Throw them into a bowl with ripe, roughly chopped tomatoes (beefsteak tomatoes would be gorgeous, but they don't grow here, so I use vine-ripened), half a finely sliced red onion, one peeled and sliced cucumber, and a generous handful of ripped basil leaves.

Add 5 - 6 tablespoons of your richest extra virgin olive oil, 1 - 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, a heaping teaspoon of capers, and 10 or so pitted and roughly chopped Kalamata olives. Add a generous sprinkle of freshly grated black pepper and sea salt (We tend not to use enough of these. Remember, the point here is to taste both, but not be overwhelmed by either.)

Toss and serve (no need to add a crusty bread or a salad, as recipes always seem to suggest ... it's already in the salad!).

The most totally flexible meal around

And the best part is you can add, delete, and substitute almost any ingredients outside of the stale bread and tomatoes. Can't stand onions? Leave 'em out. Only have green olives? Use those, instead. Got red peppers around? Slice 'em up and toss 'em in. I bet they'll be divine. Want anchovies? Chop, chop, chop, and add.

In other words, talk about versatile. You can't come up with a more flexible meal, can you?