A Simple Yet Substantial Salad To Eat All Winter

Photo: Courtesy of Food52.
To our minds, the most masterful use of stale bread occurs in Italian cuisine, where a few leftover slices are the basis for a most heavenly salad composed of fresh summer tomatoes, cucumbers, and basil. We turn to panzanella when our garden overflows with tomatoes — and are heartbroken once the deluge finally runs dry.
A few years ago, as we contemplated a loaded backyard orange tree, it dawned on us that winter fruit would carry our favorite salad through cold weather, sweet citrus supplying the juice that toasted bread ably soaks up. We added other stars of the season — pomegranate seeds and roasted beets — plus a handful of fresh herbs. The quantities are fluid, meaning that more or less, any fruits or vegetables will do. Sometimes we substitute olives for the pomegranate, or fennel for the celery. It just depends on what's in the fridge. Toasting the stale bread adds flavor and gives it a bit of crunch, even while soaking up a generous dose of juice.
Winter Panzanella With Orange, Roasted Beets, & Pomegranate Seeds
Serves 6
4 cups 1/2-inch bread cubes, cut from stale baguette or similar bread
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for roasting beets and toasting bread
2 medium purple beets, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp fresh orange juice
1/4 tsp minced garlic
2 large oranges
2 cups leafy greens such as romaine, escarole, or butter lettuce, torn or cut into bite-size pieces
2 cups arugula, torn or cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1/2 cup mixed herbs such as cilantro, chives, and dill, roughly chopped
1/2 cup diced celery
1 tbsp bottled capers, drained
2 oz feta cheese, cut into small cubes
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Place bread cubes on a baking sheet. Drizzle with a little olive oil and toss to coat. Toast bread in the oven until golden and crisp (5 to 10 minutes). Remove from the oven and cool.
2. Turn the oven temperature up to 400° F. Place beets into a glass or ceramic casserole dish, drizzle with a bit of oil, add a splash of water, cover with foil, and roast until tender (about 45 minutes). Cool.
3. Whisk oil, vinegar, orange juice, garlic, and a pinch of salt together in a small bowl. Cut the rind off the oranges (catching as much juice as possible in the dressing bowl), including the white pith just below the skin.
4. Cut the oranges crosswise into slices, then separate or cut the rounds into triangular segments. Squeeze any remaining juice from the peel into the dressing.
5. Place bread cubes, oranges, greens, herbs, celery, and capers in a large bowl. Toss with dressing, and allow the salad to sit for at least 10 minutes so the bread can soak up the dressing. Stir periodically. Top with beets, cubed feta, and pomegranate seeds before serving.

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