Our dear friends, the Krutchiks, often lavish us with new food discoveries, like Wagyu pastrami—a luxe version of the delicious brined, spiced and smoked deli meat—which they buy at their NYC neighborhood shop, Grace’s Marketplace. The richly marbled, melt-in-your-mouth meat inspired this twist on Italy’s beloved bread and tomato salad. Use ripe, in-season tomatoes (their sweet juices form part of the dressing), and pick an airy light rye bread over the dark, dense sort; the latter is too chewy for this salad. Wagyu is certainly tasty, but any good pastrami works well here.
1/2 cup very thinly sliced red onion
3 cups cubed light rye bread
1 garlic clove, peeled
Fine sea salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 pound tomatoes, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 medium pickling or Persian cucumbers or 1 large European cucumber
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
3/4 cup basil leaves, large leaves torn
1/4 pound sliced pastrami, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
Preheat the oven to 450°F with the rack in the middle. Put the onion in a bowl and cover with 1 to 2 cups of cold water. Swish the water around and rub the slices with your hands. Strain and repeat the process two or three times, letting the slices soak and changing the water at 10-minute intervals. (Soaking raw onion in cold water mellows the harsh bite.)
Meanwhile, spread out the bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake until the edges are crispy and golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely.
On a cutting board, finely chop the garlic with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Using both the blade and the flat side of a chef’s knife, chop and scrape the mixture into a paste. Put the oil and vinegar into a bowl, add the garlic paste and whisk to combine.
In a large bowl, combine the cooled bread, tomatoes and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Toss to combine, gently pressing the tomatoes a bit to release some of the juices.
Peel the cucumbers in a zebra pattern and cut on a diagonal into half moons. Drain and pat dry the onions. Add the onions, cucumber, celery, basil leaves, pastrami and parsley leaves to the salad. Whisk together the dressing, add it to the salad and gently toss to combine.