“Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree.” Emily Brontë
For some time I have been wanting to make a fall panzanella salad. A recent restaurant-made one sounded so good on the menu but was really disappointing with hard crouton-like bread and hardly any flavor. So I experimented and settled on this final creation that was unbelievably delicious! I made it on a crisp sunny fall day and we enjoyed it as a meal. Bursting with the many flavors of fall that I love: brussel sprouts, squash, cranberries, sage, thyme, pomegranate and maple, the salad was as nourishing as it was gorgous. Roasting the vegetables enhances their flavor and gives them nice browned edges with tasty crispy bits and a texture that holds up in the dressing. The salty pancetta balances the sweetness of the cranberries and squash. Pomegranate arils adds crunch and color. I used a garlic-herb loaf of Italian bread for another layer of flavor. The salad lends itself well to experimentation with your own favorite fall veggies and fruits. The maple infused dressing is the final punctuation mark of autumnal flavors in this dynamic salad. Full of antioxidant goodness, this is my new favorite fall dish!
Fall Panzanella Salad
For the salad:
- 16 oz brussel sprouts, cored and halved lengthwise, larger ones quartered
- 4 cups of butternut squash, cut in bite sized chunks, seeds reserved
- 4 oz diced pancetta
- 1 small red onion, sliced thickly
- 1 loaf of day-old Italian bread
- 12 T olive oil, divided
- 1/2 c dried cranberries, plumped up in a bit of chicken broth
- 1 cup of pomegranate arils
- 3 c of fresh greens such as baby kale, spinach or arugula, chopped
- sea salt, freshly ground pepper, cumin to taste
- 3 T sage leaves, chiffonade cut
- 3T thyme leaves
- 2 T toasted and salted squash seeds or pepitas
- 2 oz of shaved pecorino
- pomegranate arils
- 3/4 c olive oil
- 1/4 c apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 c balsamic vinegar, flavored if desired
- 1/4 c maple syrup
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 t sea salt
- Preheat oven to 400 F. Line 2 cookie sheets with foil or parchment paper. Toss the brussel sprouts with the pancetta and half the onions in about 4 tablespoons of olive oil and spread on 1 baking sheet. Season generously with sea salt and pepper. This pan will bake on the lowest rack of the oven.
- Sprinkle the squash with about a teaspoon of cumin and toss with the remaining onions and 4 T olive oil and spread on the second baking sheet, on the middle rack.
- Roast the vegetables for 20 minutes, stirring half way through to ensure even roasting. While the vegetables are cooking, make the vinaigrette by mixing all the ingredients together. Set aside.
- If you are making toasted squash seeds, spread the reserved seeds on a piece of foil and sprinkle with olive oil and sea salt. Roast in the oven alongside the veggies for about 10 minutes, stirring half way through to prevent burning.
- Toss the cubed bread in the remaining 4 T olive oil and toast in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes to crisp the outer edges of the bread, leaving the inside soft.
- In a large bowl, place the warm bread. Add the roasted vegetables, the cranberries, the pomegranate arils, the sage and thyme and the leafy greens. Toss with half of the vinaigrette, to just moisten the bread. You don’t want it soggy. Serve the rest of the vinaigrette on the side.
- Top the salad with your desired toppings. Serve at room temperature.