During warm days of August and September in the Bay Area, making a simple panzanella salad from fresh ingredients from my garden with a crisp glass of white wine is my late summer comfort food.
Step 1. Pick heirloom tomatoes from the garden. Chop or slice.
Step 2. Pick fresh basil from the garden. Chop.
Step 3. Finely chop couple of cloves of fresh garlic. This is a key ingredient, just like basil - it really takes tomatoes to a whole other level.
Step 4. Cut fresh buffalo mozzarella into large chunks. The quality of the mozzarella is very important. None of the cheap rubbery stuff. In the Bay Area, I find that A.G. Ferrari and Costco have excellent quality buffalo mozzarella.
Step 5. Cut stale rustic bread into big chunks.
Step 6. Mix everything, and dress with high-quality olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Some people like to add a bit of vinegar, but if the tomatoes are tangy enough, I'd skip. Another delicious alternative (or addition) to vinegar is lemon juice. And here is another "trade secret". Add a splash of sugar to your tomatoes. Sugar and sea salt will work together to really bring out the zing in those heirlooms!
The above ingredients also make Caprese salad (without bread) and bruschetta (with toasted bread) - all variations on the same recipe. And if you blend everything together (without bread and mozzarella), you'll pretty much have gazpacho soup.
Terrific with Bruno Giacosa Roero Arneis 2008 from Roero area in Piedmonte, Italy. Arneis is the top white wine coming out of Piedmonte, a region famous for reds and sparkling white Moscato wines. In the right hands, Arneis is world-class, and Bruno Giacosa (a legendary Barolo producer) makes my favorite.