Panzanella, a rustic Italian salad, transforms stale bread into the most desirable mate for ripe tomatoes (and their juices), onions, olives and basil. My garden gave up on tomatoes and basil a couple of months ago, but I always seem to have some leftover bread on hand. In this winter squash panzanella, I paired sweet roasted acorn squash with sautéed red onions, pecans, and a bit of feta. A bright sherry vinaigrette brings it all together, and the roasted squash seeds complete the dish. Remember that this salad begins with leftovers, so substitute freely with any roasted vegetables you have on hand. And if you don't have any stale bread, cut what you do have into cubes and dry it in the oven for 15 minutes before adding to the salad.
Winter squash panzanella
5 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 acorn squash
1/4 cup roasted squash seeds
3 cups stale bread cubes*
1/2 medium red onion, sliced
1/4 cup pecans
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Brush a rimmed baking sheet with 1 tsp of olive oil. Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds and stringy part of the flesh, and place the two halves cut side down on the baking sheet. Roast at 400F for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, but don't turn the oven off.
While the squash is cooking, wash and dry the squash seeds, and set aside.
In a small nonstick frying pan, heat 1-1/2 tsp of olive oil over low heat. Sauté the onion until it is soft and translucent, and just starting to brown, 5 minutes or so. Remove from heat and set aside.
When the squash comes out of the oven, remove it from the baking sheet. Sprinkle the squash seeds on the same pan, and roast for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and scrape the seeds into a bowl.
*If you are not starting with stale bread, put the cubed bread on the baking sheet, and toast in the oven for 15 minutes until it is quite crisp but not brown. Remove from the oven and set aside.
When the squash is cooled to room temperature, scoop out the flesh and cut it into large cubes. Place the squash in a large mixing bowl with the bread, onions, pecans and feta cheese.
In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk the sherry vinegar and remaining olive oil, plus a pinch each of salt and pepper, until well incorporated, and pour over the salad ingredients. Toss well to combine. Season with additional black pepper, to taste, and serve at room temperature.
More winter salads:
Bread salad with roasted tomato vinaigrette, from The Perfect Pantry
Panzanella, from Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once
Greek style panzanella, from Farmgirl Fare
Wild mushroom and cornbread panzanella salad, from Cookin' Canuck
Turkey panzanella, from Rookie Cookery
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