To me, salad is fungible; a variable concept with endless iterations. Salad isn’t just a plate of greens with a splash of vinaigrette. It’s that, sure, and it’s a wedge of crunchy iceberg with blue cheese dressing.
But lettuce is not a requirement for salad. Too, the whole idea changes drastically from season to season: Thick slabs of sunkissed tomato and dollops of homemade ricotta cheese in summer, to a toss of green beans and fingerling potatoes in the fall, to a big bowl of orzo with tons of vegetables and other goodies that works pretty much all year long.
Typically, panzanella—an Italian salad of tomatoes, black olives, cucumbers and stale bread—is a summer dish, designed to use the glut of veggies and leftover bread. But here’s a wintertime version that’s just as delicious, hearty and super seasonal.
This winter panzanella salad would be the perfect side dish to roast chicken or pork tenderloin. Use good bread—a hefty multigrain, unsalted rye or even a good bakery raisin bread are all good options here. You can make the components of this salad ahead of time (roast the vegetables, toast the croutons, mix the vinaigrette), but assemble it just a few minutes before serving.
Winter Panzanella Salad Recipe
4 cups day-old multigrain or rye bread croutons (see Note)
4 cups cubed butternut squash
1 small red onion, slivered
1 red apple, cored and sliced
1 large handful baby arugula
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup toasted whole walnuts
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 small garlic clove, mashed to a paste with a bit of salt
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Shaved Parmesan for serving
Note: Instead of cutting bread into even cubes, tear it into bite-sized chunks. Let croutons dry, uncovered, for a day before proceeding.
Preheat oven to 375°. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss bread croutons with a drizzle of olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Bake croutons for 10–15 minutes until mostly dried and lightly toasted; transfer to large serving bowl. Increase oven temperature to 400°. On the same rimmed baking sheet, toss the butternut squash cubes and red onion with a drizzle of olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast 20 minutes or until tender. Transfer to the bowl with the croutons. Add arugula, sliced apple, parsley leaves and walnuts. In a small jar, combine the olive oil, sherry vinegar, garlic, and a pinch of freshly ground pepper. Cover and shake to combine. Toss salad with just enough dressing to lightly coat the ingredients. Transfer to serving plates and top with shaved Parmesan.