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Rusk Salad with Tomatoes, Capers, and Olives

To Make The Rusks:
Prepare step 1 through 4 in the recipe for Chick-Pea Leavened Bread, in step 5 after you have shaped the loaves, use a wet thin-bladed knife to cut each loaf into one-inch thick slices.  Reform the two loaves and place them in the oiled pan.  Bake as directed above for 30 minutes.  Bread is three-quarters cooked.  Remove to cool on a rack while oven temperature reduces to 250 degrees.  Break apart slices, place side by side on the stone or tiles and continue baking until completely dry throughout and pale golden, about two hours.  When cold, store the rusks in tins or cloth bags.

The Salad:
Daphne Zepos, a Greek-born cheese expert  now living in the U.S., shared this bit of colorful advice concerning the handling of rusks in this dish. "Be sure," she told me " to soak the rusks until they get to the enervating stage of a leaky faucet."

 If you are daunted by the preceding recipe, but still want to make this salad, you may substitute store bought barley rusks imported from Greece called paximadi. The Mani brand made with barley are fairly decent...but, of course, not the same as  home- made chick-pea leavened bread.

 Note: Chick-pea leavened bread must be densely textured, or it will not make good rusks. Loose weaved bread turns soggy when moistened.

Serves 2 to 4 as a snack or first course
4 chick-pea bread rusks (see  recipe) 
1/3 cup grated tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  Freshly ground pepper
6 pitted Kalamata olives, rinsed and sliced
1 cup ripe cherry tomatoes,  preferably yellow or orange, halved
6 salted capers, soaked, rinsed and drained
  Pinch of dried Mediterranean  oregano or hyssop
2 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley
1 tablespoon crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2 sprigs fresh thyme



 1. Soak the dry rusks in warm water until soft enough to cut with a knife. Gently shake off excess water and cut into bite-size pieces. Divide and place in the center of two small serving plates. Spoon over equal amounts of the grated tomato seasoned  with lemon zest and salt and pepper. Let stand about 20 minutes allowing the juices to baste the rusk.

 2. Just before serving, decorate  with olives, tomatoes, capers, oregano, parsley and feta. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar and salt and pepper; mixing well. Drizzle over the garnished breads and top each with a sprig of thyme.

Note to the Cook:
To grate the tomatoes: With stem-side up, cut the tomatoes horizontally in half. Scoop the juice and seeds into a strainer and press the pulp  through. Grate the tomatoes, cut-side down, on a rough grater. The tough  tomato skin will stay on the side of your palm. Discard skin and seeds,  mix tomato juice and pulp with sugar, lemon zest and salt and pepper.

Crushed rusks make good sturdy  breadcrumbs.

With thanks to Chef Rick Moonen  of the Molyvos Restaurant in New York for the salad recipe.

© Paula Wolfert. Mediterranean Grains and Greens  HarperCollins, 1998.


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