COUNTRY BREAD SALAD IN THE STYLE OF THE EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN

COUNTRY BREAD SALAD IN THE STYLE OF THE EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN
Serves 4 to 6 as a main dish

1 medium onion, cut into 1/2 inch dice
Ice water
1/2 loaf, or 4 to 5 cups big chunks of coarse, chewy bread (whole wheat, multi-grain, or part whole wheat, preferably not sweet)
1/2 cup each fresh lemon juice or vinegar, and cold water
1 large garlic clove, peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 small stalk celery with leaves
2 sweet yellow or red peppers, cut into 1/2 inch dice
A big handful of spinach leaves, torn
1 big delicious tomato, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
One 14-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup kalamata or other flavorful olive
1/3 tight-packed cup each of fresh mint leaves, and fresh coriander or basil leaves, torn
3 to 6 tablespoons fruity extra-virgin olive oil, or to taste
6 to 8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (optional)

1. In a small bowl, cover the diced onions with ice water and refrigerate 30 minutes to overnight. Put the bread in another bowl and toss with 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice and the 1/2 cup water.

2. In a large serving bowl, mash together the garlic, salt and pepper with the back of a spoon until the garlic is almost dissolved. Stir in the rest of the lemon or vinegar. Let stand about 10 minutes, then add all the vegetables (including the chickpeas), and the herbs.

3. Drain the onions then toss them into the bowl. Squeeze the bread dry, adding it to the bowl with the cheese. Toss lightly just to combine everything then taste for seasoning. Serve at room temperature.

LYNNE'S TIPS
• The rougher and more grainy the bread, the better this salad tastes. If rough isn't to be had, go for chewy, like a ciabatta or sourdough loaf.

• Tossing together all the ingredients at the last minute makes sense because the cucumbers and tomatoes will throw off a lot of liquid. This isn't a bad thing, just a little sloppy.

THOUGHTS FROM LYNNE
Sheila Lukins is half of the duo that wrote The Silver Palate, the legendary book that started an entire generation thinking pesto, carrot cake, chicken Marbella, and who knows what else. This recipe from one of her latest books is pure summertime.