Roasting is likely my favorite way to cook. Perhaps, because I feel it offers a sort of permission to relax and sit down after a busy day; a meditative slow waiting. It gives opportunity to tinker in the kitchen; to take time to carefully make something to accompany the parcel roasting in the oven. Whatever it is, I’m all about a therapeutic hour in the kitchen.
Panzanella simply means bread salad. It was originally a Florentine recipe made of toasted stale bread and onions, dressed with olive oil and vinegar. The classic tomato-centric version that we are familiar with didn’t come about until the early 20th century. Variations included tomatoes, mozzarella, Parmesan, olives, anchovies, capers, and red onions. Panzanella is the perfect use for a good, yet forgotten, loaf of European bread. Toasted with olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt, it soaks up all of the glorious flavors in the salad. This recipe made with roasted beetroot, although it is a far cry from traditional, is a worthy derivation even in its’ experimental nature.
Golden beets naturally have an earthy quality and mild sweetness that is divine. They are inherently saturated with a vibrant golden yellow hue that I absolutely love. Goldens are different than their feisty ruby red cousins which stain, however beautifully, everything they touch.
The contrasting colors and textures in this recipe are delicious to the eye and palate: juicy sweet beets, bitter greens, fresh herbs, toasted almonds, and savory crunchy bread. And, yet, it is the dressing that ties it all together that makes this salad a darling. Made with olive oil, sherry vinegar, maple syrup, and fresh garlic; the dressing is savory, acidic, and sweet with the perfect amount of heat. Secretly, just between you and I, my two teenage boys were eating vitamin rich dark green vegetables like they were going out of style. But, remember, you didn’t hear it here.
Roasted Beetroot Panzanella
6 medium to large golden beets, roasted, peeled, and chopped into 1 inch dice
1 bunch beet greens, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup italian flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup basil, coarsely chopped
3 sprigs thyme, destemmed
4 ounces sliced almonds, toasted
1/3 loaf whole wheat sourdough, cut in 1 inch cubes and toasted
salt and pepper, to taste
For the dressing:
1/4 cup Fustini's Sherry Vinegar
1/4 cup Fustini's Arbequina Olive Oil, plus extra for finishing
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash the beetroot well and pat dry. Place on a medium sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, and fresh thyme leaves. Depending on the size of the beets, roast for 40-60 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
While still warm, remove peel by running your thumb vertically from top to bottom. The peel should rub right off. A paring knife works fine, too. Chop beets in to a 1 inch dice, place in a bowl, and set aside.
Meanwhile, place the almonds on a small sheet pan to toast for 5-7 minutes. Once toasted to your liking, remove from oven to cool.
Cut 1/3 of the sourdough loaf in to 1 inch cubes. Place on a medium sheet pan and lightly drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and toss to coat. Bake for 7-10 minutes or until toasted to your liking. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Roughly chop the beet greens, parsley, and basil. Remove thyme leaves from the stem by running your fingers from top to bottom. Discard the stem. If the beet greens don't look good, any dark green leafy lettuce will do i.e. swiss chard, arugula, or spinach.
To make the dressing, crush or finely grate two cloves of garlic. Mix the sherry vinegar, olive oil, maple syrup, and garlic with a whisk. Set aside.
Once the beets have reached room temperature, add the beet greens, parsley, basil, thyme, and almonds. Toss lightly with dressing. You may not use quite all of the dressing, so add it slowly to your liking. Add the toasted sourdough, lightly toss again. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with a little olive oil to finish.