Monday, November 24, 2014

autumn panzanella.

When it comes to Thanksgiving, I am a stuffing girl.  It isn't the showstopper the way the turkey is but it's the showstopper in my book and I can't get enough of it.  (This is why you will find me in the kitchen on the day of shamelessly eating all the crispy bits of stuffing out of the cooked turkey.  Sorry Mom.)

But why is a one day a year kind of food? And if people insist upon keeping it a one day a year food, how can I take that concept and turn it into something that people will eat from September through December?  

Well.  I had a light-bulb moment last evening and realized that panzanella is a pretty close cousin to stuffing. So close in fact that an autumn panzanella could in fact be the answer to all of my stuffing issues.  This is why I found myself in the kitchen this morning chopping the last remaining bits of my first loaf of Tartine bread (yes I brought a loaf of bread back with me on an airplane and no I don't think this is weird) and turning it into the most amazing rift on stuffing.  Ever.  

This salad-stuffing-bowl of delicious-ness is the kind of thing you will find yourself craving.  Cubes of well toasted bread are tossed with chunks of squash, pepitas, chorizo and goat cheese.  A maple-sherry dressing gets drizzled over the whole thing for a little bit of extra flavor.  It's a lighter more elegant version of stuffing which is why you can eat it much more often.  

Autumn Panzanella 

Serves 2 as a main

I don't have to tell you that you could throw just about anything into this and it would be really good.  Some roasted piquillo peppers could be nice (or plain old roasted red peppers), sopressata could easily replace the chorizo, and burrata instead of goat cheese could be magical.  Some dried cranberries and almonds would be a happy addition as well (or some sauteed greens!).  But I assure you that this version is pretty deliciously spot-on.  

For the Salad 

4 cups of hearty bread cubed and toasted
3 cups cubed and roasted butternut squash or sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons pepitas
1/4 cup chopped dried chorizo
2 ounces goat cheese crumbled
Fried brussel sprout leaves (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste.  

For the Dressing

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Mike's Hot Honey (or 1 teaspoon honey and a sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes)
Salt and pepper to taste

Toss all of the ingredients for the salad except for the brussel sprout leaves into a bowl .  Stir to combine.

Whisk the dressing ingredients together except for the salt and pepper.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.  Pour over the salad.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.  Garnish with brussel sprout leaves.

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