As fresh loaves of bread now emerge from my oven on a weekly basis, it has become necessary to get creative and ensure that it does not got to waste. Besides enjoying lots of toast and jam for breakfast, I have also started to work bread into our dinners. In moderation, I’ve found that bread is a great meal extender- allowing small quantities of other ingredients to shine while ensuring we are still full and satisfied. (It is also is very budget friendly- which is always appreciated!)
A big loaf of leftover sourdough inspired me to create an Autumn riff on a traditional panzanella (Italian bread salad). I cubed the loaf of bread and then toasted it with a red onion and sweet potato to create the base of the salad. Toasted pepitas added a flavorful nutty crunch, while a big pile of grated Parmesan cheese melted around the warm bread cubes nicely.
To create the dressing, I played around with a combination of sage, garlic, olive oil, cider vinegar, and thyme until it had just the right balance of savory herb flavor, pungent garlic, and bright acidity. Once mixed together, the flavors melded beautifully and created a savory alternative to traditional panzanella.
This would be a delicious salad to take to a potluck and would shine as a side dish alongside my favorite roast chicken with meyer lemon and sage. Or if it is a Tuesday night and you just want something simple, dish up a bowl for dinner and call it a day!
Autumn Panzanella (Printable Recipe)
Serves 4 as a main course or 8-10 as a side salad
Be sure to allow the finished dish to sit for an hour before serving. This is necessary for the flavors to fully develop, otherwise the bread will not have time to absorb the dressing and may taste rather bland.
10 cups cubed Sourdough bread (cut into 1″ pieces)
1 cup diced sweet potato (about 1 medium)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large red onion, cut into 1/2″ wedges
2 cups diced fresh tomato (or a 14oz high quality can, drained)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup pepitas, toasted (pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup Olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon fresh sage, minced
1 teaspoon, fresh thyme
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon herbes de provenence
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees, with a rack in the middle. Line a large rimmed baking pan with foil, and evenly spread the bread, sweet potato, and onion across the sheet. Drizzle 1/4 cup of olive oil over the baking pan, and then toss all ingredients so they are evenly coated with oil. Place the pan in the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring the contents occasionally, until they are evenly toasted and the vegetables are soft.
Meanwhile, assemble the dressing. Place olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, sage, thyme, vinegar, salt, pepper, and herbes de provenence in a blender. Blend in quick five second bursts, until the garlic is emulsified and the ingredients are well combined.
Once the bread and vegetables are toasted, place them in a large bowl along with the diced tomatoes, grated Parmesan, pepitas, and dressing. Gently toss all ingredients until they are well combined and the bread is evenly coated with dressing.
Cover the salad, and let it sit at room temperature for an hour, which will give the bread time to absorb the flavors of the salad. Once the flavors have melded together nicely, taste the salad to see if it needs any additional salt, pepper, or apple cider vinegar. Adjust seasonings to your taste, and serve.