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 with 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 add other stars of the season too, such as pomegranate seeds and roasted beets, plus a handful of fresh herbs. The quantities are fluid -- more or less of any of the fruits and vegetables works just as well. 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 means it retains a bit of crunch, even while soaking up a generous dose of juice. —Ann S
Test Kitchen Notes
WHO: Ann S lives in the Bay Area and loves cookbooks and tea.
WHAT: A bright, citrusy take on the classic panzanella.
HOW: Toast your stale bread, roast your beets, then combine all the ingredients in a big bowl. Serve proudly.
WHY WE LOVE IT: This is everything you want out of a salad in the winter: the softened-but-still-crusty bite of bread, the pop of citrus, the salty tang of feta, the sweetness of the beets and pomegranate. We'll be eating bowls and bowls of this until the weather gets warm again. —The Editors
1/2-inch bread cubes, cut from stale baguette or similar bread
extra virgin olive oil, plus more for roasting beets and toasting bread
medium purple beets, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 tablespoons
fresh orange juice
leafy greens such as romaine, escarole, or butter lettuce, torn or cut into bite-size pieces
arugula, torn or cut into bite-size pieces
flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
mixed herbs such as cilantro, chives, and dill, roughly chopped
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.
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.
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. 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.
Place bread cubes, oranges, greens, herbs, celery, and capers into 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.