When I continously traveling, my refrigerator has been less regularly maintained, you know? That means I find an assortment of this and that produce greeting me when I return home begging to be cooked before it crosses over to the dark side.
Most recently, my produce scavenger hunt turned up some last-leg greens and thyme and a host of pantry items – butternut squash, onions, pine nuts, and currants. This is proof that a well-stocked pantry can make the difference between measly spinach salad and something to write home about.
So, here it is: a fall-flavored panzanella (bread salad) that’s hardly traditional but that hardly matters. It’s slightly reminiscent of the Zuni Café Roast Chicken Salad (missing the chicken, of course) with its pops of tart, sweet, and earthy from the currants, squash, and nuts. I’d never normally tell you to make a bread salad ahead, but my brother came over and ate the last bits and bobs a day later and was loving it more than when it was freshly made.
cored and cut into medium dice
or currant bread, cut into large dice
peeled, seeded, and cut into large dice (about 4 cups)
finely chopped (about 2 teaspoons)
thinly shaved and crumbled (optional)
Combine currants, onion, apple, and vinegar in a large nonreactive bowl and toss to combine. Set aside while you make the rest of the salad, anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oven to 450°F and arrange one rack in the top of the oven and one in the bottom. Place pine nuts in a small ovenproof frying pan or baking sheet and toast while the oven heats up until golden brown, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, toss half of the oil with bread cubes to coat well. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet in one layer. On a second rimmed baking sheet, toss squash with garlic, thyme, remaining olive oil and salt and pepper to coat well. Place squash on the top rack and bread on the bottom. Toast bread, stirring once or twice, until the croutons are crisp, about 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside and let cool. Continue to roast squash until knife tender, stirring a few times, for about 10 minutes more.
Add half of the bread to the vinegar mixture and toss to coat. Set aside while the squash finishes roasting. When the squash is finished, add it and toss to coat. Just before serving, add remaining bread and toss to coat. Taste and add more salt, pepper, or vinegar as desired. To serve, add greens to serving dishes, top with bread salad and garnish with nuts and cheese. Serve immediately.
Food styling and photography by Aida Mollenkamp