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.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 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 (about 5 to 10 minutes). Remove from the oven and cool.
Turn the oven temperature up to 400 degrees. 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.