ADVERTISEMENT

Imagine building a meal around stale bread. That's the inspiration for Tuscan panzanella salad. It uses fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, olives and, yes, 2-day-old bread.

"Tuscan women don't even waste a crust of bread," Patty Sutherland told me while on a trip to this popular region of Italy. While watching one of the Tuscan housewives make this dish, she told me she adds tuna, eggs or cheese to make it into a simple supper.

This meal contains 419 calories per serving with 28 percent of calories from fat.

Helpful hints:

* Fresh tuna is used in the recipe. If pressed for time simply sprinkle a good quality canned tuna on top of the salad.

* Any type of firm, country-style bread can be used. If it is too fresh, toast if for a few minutes.

* Any type of salad dressing can be used.

* The cooking times are for rare tuna; add 2 to 3 minutes if you prefer it cooked through.

Tuscan Panzanella Salad (Tuscan Tomato and Bread Salad)

3 large slices whole grain bread (one to two days old)

4 scallions, sliced

1 medium tomato, cut into cubes (about 1 cup)

1 packed cup fresh basil leaves

1/2 medium cucumber, peeled and cut into cubes (about 1 cup)

6 pitted black olives, cut in half

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil and vinegar dressing (divided use)

3/4 pound fresh tuna

Soak the bread for a few seconds in a small bowl of water. When just soft, squeeze out all of the water and break into small pieces. Place bread in a bowl with the scallions, tomatoes, basil, cucumber and olives. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add 1 tablespoon salad dressing and mix well. Divide between two dinner plates.

Heat a nonstick skillet over high heat. Add the tuna and sear for 2 minutes, turn and sear 2 more minutes for a 1/2 to 3/4 -inch tuna steak.

Cook 2 minutes longer for a 1 to 2-inch steak. Cut tuna into 1-inch slices and place on top of the salad. Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon dressing. Makes 2 servings.

Per serving: 419 calories (28 percent from fat), 13.2 g fat (2.4 g saturated, 4.1 g monounsaturated), 78 mg cholesterol, 47.5 g protein, 27.0 g carbohydrates, 6.2 g fiber, 352 mg sodium.