I’d always thought of panzanella as a summer salad made with stale bread and tomatoes.
Then I took a look at Alana Chernila’s cookbook, “The Homemade Kitchen,” which is filled with dishes she adapted for different seasons.
She devotes a page to panzanella, with a classic version accompanied by a variation for spring, with asparagus, and one for fall and winter, with roasted delicata squash, sage and brussels sprouts.
That cool-weather panzanella captured my attention. What I loved was its contrast of textures and flavors – crispy-chewy bread infused with tangy vinaigrette; sweet, soft, caramelized roasted squash; and fresh, crisp lettuce.
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I adapted Chernila’s panzanella for this simplified recipe. I made it with butternut squash (easier to find), and tossed the bread in a vinaigrette with lots of thinly sliced celery and radishes, half the roasted squash and fresh herbs.
I dressed the lettuce in some of the vinaigrette, and topped it with the bread mixture. The remaining squash goes on top, with shaved Parmesan and lots of sage. It’s a great salad for a buffet, but you can also make a meal of it.
Panzanella With Winter Squash and Sage
1/2 delicata or medium butternut squash (about 1 1/4 pounds), peeled if butternut, seeded and sliced into 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick moons
8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces stale bread, torn into bite-size pieces (about 5 cups)
2 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 plump garlic clove, mashed to a paste or pressed
3/4 cup thinly sliced celery
1/2 cup thinly sliced radishes
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Ground black pepper
1 romaine lettuce heart, leaves rinsed, dried, and torn into smaller pieces
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 ounce shaved Parmesan
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Toss the squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt to taste. Roast 25 minutes or until soft and caramelized on the edges, turning the slices over halfway through. Remove from heat.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add bread and stir until crisp, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat.
Make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together vinegars, salt to taste, mustard, garlic and 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) olive oil.
Combine bread, celery, radishes, half the squash, thyme, parsley and pepper in a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup vinaigrette and toss together.
Whisk 1 tablespoon olive oil into remaining vinaigrette and toss with lettuce and chives. Place on a platter or in a wide bowl and top with bread mixture. Garnish with remaining squash and the Parmesan shavings. Sprinkle sage over the top, and serve.
Yield: 6 servings.