Best Winter Panzanella Salad
For me, a panzanella salad signifies summer......ripened Jersey tomatoes, crisp pieces of torn stale bread soaked in a vinaigrette and basil leaves. I look forward to it all year long.
Leafing thru Michael Chiarello's cookbook, he had an unusual salad that he calls a "Winter Panzanella".
It had butternut squash, red onions, Brussels sprouts and herb croutons.
I was intrigued.
Leave it to Michael Chiarello to pair these ingredients together.
There were a lot of steps involved in making this dish, but oh, so worth it.
This was beyond delicious. Probably one of the best salads I have ever had.
It is also very hearty and needed nothing to accompany it.
Winter Panzanella Salad: (adapted from Michael Chiarello's Casual Cooking)
*(I have asterisked where I have made an addition or omission to the recipe).
For the croutons:
1/4 cup unsalted butter (half a stick)
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
6 cups day-old bread, crust removed, cubed (*I used half of a fresh bastone)
6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish (*I omitted the cheese)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400F.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over moderate heat and cook until it foams.
Add the garlic and thyme, and immediately add the bread cubes. Toss to coat well. Add most of the grated cheese and stir (I did not use the cheese, but I am sure it would be great).
Transfer bread to a baking sheet and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and salt and pepper and gently toss again while still warm to melt the cheese. Bake stirring once or twice, until the croutons are crisp and lightly colored on the outside but still soft within, about 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside and let cool.
For the salad:
1 small red onion, sliced thinly lengthwise
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar (*I used white balsamic mixed w/ red wine vinegar)
sea salt (like Maldon or Gray salt)
4 cups peeled, seeded, and diced butternut squash (1/2-inch dice)
1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed, then quartered
1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
Soak the sliced onion in the sherry vinegar and a pinch of salt for about 15 minutes. Set aside.
Chiarello notes: "Soaking the onion briefly in sherry vinegar--sometimes called blooming the onion--mellows the raw onion taste." This really does work.
Toss the squash with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil, sage, salt, and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 400F until the squash is tender and lightly caramelized, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the quartered Brussels sprouts and cook until tender but retain a touch of crispness, about 1 1/2 minutes, and drain.
Into the reserved red onions and vinegar, whisk in remaining 1/2 cup olive oil. Season with pepper.
In a large bowl combine the roasted squash, croutons, and Brussels sprouts. Add the vinaigrette and toss. Add the parsley leaves and toss again. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Garnish with grated Parmesan, if desired, and serve immediately.