WINTER PANZANELLA

It's the week between Christmas and New Year's.  We could all probably use a salad.  But we're also not quite ready to jump full stop into the diets and detoxes that January brings.  Therefore, I give you Winter Panzanella.  It has enough kale and butternut squash to make it good for you, but also just enough dressing soaked croutons and shaved parmesan cheese to make it worth your while.

I had this salad in my head for several months, and it finally made it's debut on Christmas Eve. It holds it's own on a buffet and would make an excellent addition to your New Year's brunch table. I also see us making this one snowy night with a side of soup and a big glass of cabernet.  

Winter Panzanella

Serves 4-6

1 small loaf whole wheat sourdough, cut into 1/2 to 1 inch cubes (about 4 cups)
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
8 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
1 bunch lacinato kale, shredded
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
1/3 cup raw almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
4 ounces good quality parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt + pepper
Sherry Vinaigrette (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. 

Toss bread cubes with a tablespoon olive oil and spread evenly onto one of the sheet pans. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden and toasted, but still soft in the center.  Set aside.

Coat butternut squash with another tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of salt + pepper.  Add thyme leaves and then evenly arrange on second sheet pan.  Roast for 25-30 minutes until just tender and can be easily pierced with a knife. Set aside to cool. 

Meanwhile, prepare the kale. In a large bowl, coat the kale with a small drizzle of olive oil.  With your clean hands, start squeezing and massaging the kale between your fingers for several minutes.  You'll know it's ready once it turns bright green and starts to wilt down. 

When ready to serve, in a large salad bowl, toss croutons with several tablespoons of the vinaigrette.  Add the squash, kale, shallots, almonds, and pomegranate seeds with another several tablespoons of the dressing and gently toss until combined.  Using a vegetable peeler, shave thin strips of parmesan onto the top of the salad.  Serve.  

Sherry Vinaigrette

1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. honey
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt + pepper to taste

Whisk ingredients together until emulsified.  Set aside until ready to dress salad.  Can be made one day in advance.