Salad and summertime seem to go hand in hand. While a bountiful summer harvest makes them perfect partners, a delicious salad can still be had in the depths of winter, even in Minnesota.
Panzanella, an Italian bread-based salad, is usually made during the height of fresh tomato season. It's often combined with red onions, cucumbers and basil. The result is a brightly flavored salad that typically goes well with whatever protein is coming off the grill.
For this winter version, Roasted Spiced Butternut Squash and Kale Panzanella, I've swapped out butternut squash for the tomatoes and added wilted kale to the mix for an infusion of greens. I always have one or two butternut squashes in my pantry during the winter. They add a touch of sweetness to soups and stews and make a hearty side for almost any main dish.
In this salad, I roast cubes of butternut squash with warm spices like cinnamon, coriander and cumin, which give the dish an exotic aroma and flavor. These spices, along with a vibrant vinaigrette, soak into toasted bread cubes, leaving them slightly crispy but full of flavor.
Salty feta cheese is crumbled over the top, which is also scattered with toasted pumpkin seeds. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and pine nuts would make a good substitution, if preferred.
Not only is this salad delicious, but it's also easy to make and easy to clean up, as the croutons, squash and kale are all cooked on the same baking sheet.
I often serve this as a side dish to roasted chicken or pork, but it also makes a satisfying main dish, especially if it's topped with a fried egg.
Roasted Spiced Butternut Squash and Kale Panzanella
Cubes of butternut squash are roasted with warm spices and tossed with wilted kale, toasted croutons and a vibrant vinaigrette for a change-of-pace winter salad that works as either a hearty side or a light main dish. From Meredith Deeds.
• 6 oz. stale bread, cut into 1-in. cubes (about 4 c.)
• 6 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
• 1 tsp. salt, divided
• 1 small butternut squash (about 1 1/2 to 2 lb.), peeled and cut into 1-in. cubes (about 4 c.)
• 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
• 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
• 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
• 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided
• 1 bunch kale, stemmed and torn into bite-size pieces
• 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
• 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
• 1 tsp. honey
• 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
• 1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
• 1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
• 1/4 c. toasted pumpkin seeds
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
In a large bowl, toss bread with 2 tablespoons oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt to coat. Arrange on a single layer on a large baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, stirring halfway through, until lightly browned. Let cool.
In the same large bowl, combine the butternut squash with 1 tablespoon oil, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Toss to coat. Arrange in a single layer on a large baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, stirring halfway through, until tender and lightly browned. Transfer to a serving bowl.
In the same large bowl, combine the kale with 1 tablespoon oil. Toss thoroughly to coat with the oil. Transfer to a large baking sheet and bake for about 3 minutes, until just wilted but still bright green. Transfer to the serving bowl with the squash. Add the toasted bread cubes to the bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, honey, garlic, parsley, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Drizzle over the squash, kale and bread and toss to coat. Garnish with the feta cheese and pumpkin seeds.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Instagram at @meredithdeeds.