I'd bought a loaf of Columbia City Bakery's excellent walnut loaf on Wednesday at the Farmers Market, but somehow by Saturday it was still whole and, since it was in a paper bag, getting pretty hard. But lemons...lemonade! I made panzanella.
I love panzanella. It's another one of those Italian leftover dishes that people in American (especially the ones that don't cook) think is so authentic and inventive when, in actuality, it's mostly just resourceful. It's a way to use up leftovers and other stuff you've got lying around. I guess that's what goulash is to Hungarians: a way to get rid of all the odds-n-ends without waste. In other words, it'd be perfect for my old bread.
Usually I make panzanella (which roughly translates to "bread salad") with fresh tomatoes, peppers, onions, lots of fresh herbs and whatever else is on hand. It's great for summer because it's a no-cook dish that can be served as an entree or as tasty side. But since I had walnut bread (versus a more neutral bread), I thought a roasted veggie version would be better. And since we were having November-in-August weather last weekend, heating up the house while roasting the veggies wasn't going to be a problem.
Roasted Vegetable Panzanella
1 large onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled, cut in half and sliced into 1" pieces
3 peppers (of varying colors, or whatever you like), seeded and chopped
1 eggplant, cut into 1" cubes
3 zuchini or any combination of summer squash, cut into 1" pieces
6 cloves garlic, slightly crushes but still in the peel
1/2 c chopped fresh basil
1/4 c chopped Italian (flatleaf) parsley
(other fresh herbs--thyme, oregano, chives--you desire)
1/4 c Italian or Greek olives, chopped --optional
1/2 c chopped semi-firm cheese (such as feta or fresh mozzarella) --optional
1/4 c toasted pine nuts --optional
1/2 loaf stale artisan bread*
Preheat the oven to 415 degrees.
On a sturdy metal baking sheet or shallow roasting pan, mix onion, garlic cloves, carrot and peppers, drizzle with olive oil, then mix by hand to coat. Sprinkle generously with salt and fresh pepper and roast for 30-40 minutes, mixing once, until the edges are starting to get browned.
*On a separate baking sheet, mix eggplant and zuchini and drizzle with olive oil, then mix by hand and season with salt and pepper. Roast veggies for 30-40 minutes or until they're starting to get browned.
While vegetables are roasting, cut the bread into thick slices and then into 1" cubes, erring on the large side.
Allow veggies to cool.
Remove the roasted garlic from their skins and mash into a small bowl. Add 1/3 c olive oil and 1/4 c balsamic vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper and stir.
Place all the roasted veggies in a large bowl. Add the fresh herbs, nuts, olives (if using) and the bread and stir a couple of times. Drizzle with half of the dressing and stir a couple of times, then add the other half of the dressing and stir again. Test for seasoning, and add vinegar or olive oil if the panzanella is a little dry. Add the cheese just before serving.
Instead of aging bread for this recipe, you can also oven-dry the bread by slicing it and placing it in a 300 degree oven for 1/2 hour, or you can grill the bread. It's really up to you.
*Using two baking sheets helps the vegetables actually roast vs just steaming; crowding the pan will decrease the chances of the vegetables caramelizing.