Core the tomatoes and, if large, cut them into chunks; if small, halve or quarter them. Toss them gently with the shallot, garlic, oil, vinegar, 1 tablespoon salt, and pepper. Set aside until the tomatoes are very juicy, about 10 minutes.
Fill a large bowl with ice water. Add the bread and set aside until soft, no more than 5 minutes. Using your hands, scoop the bread from the water, squeeze out as much water as possible, and rub it through your fingers into the tomatoes. Tear the basil over the salad and toss gently. (The bread salad can be served now or set aside at room temperature for a couple of hours.)
Cook's Note It's easy to dry fresh bread. Tear it into chunks and microwave for 1 to 2 minutes. Or place the chunked bread on a baking sheet in a 250 degrees oven for a few minutes.
Copyright (c) 2004 Television Food Network, G.P., All Rights Reserved.