Panzanella (pahn-zah-NELL-la) is a practical Italian dish transforming stale bread into a delicious salad. Traditionally it is made entirely from cold ingredients, but we like a roasted layer topped with a contrast of chilled. Mark said that it’s “like” salad, but without all the “boring” stuff. Ironically, a minute later he suggested it would be good over spinach leaves. I think I may be cracking his anti-vegetable platform.
|WHAT YOU NEED||WHAT TO DO||WHY|
||Center an oven rack; preheat to 400°F Convection (verify with an oven thermometer). Meanwhile…||Internal oven thermostats are often improperly calibrated.|
||Add onion, mushrooms and bacon to the sheet pan. Drizzle with oil; sprinkle with pepper and salt. Toss with hands to coat evenly; spread in an even layer. Bake until bacon is crispy (~14 minutes); pour off any excess fat. Distribute focaccia bread cubes evenly on top and return to the oven until bread browns at the edges (~5 minutes). Meanwhile…||Onion wedges are attractive and not prone to burning while roasting with bacon. Regular olive oil is sufficient here; heat destroys and wastes the subtle flavors of expensive extra-virgin.|
||Add all but the feta to a 3-quart bowl; gently toss with a silicone spatula. Serve in wide, shallow bowls with a layer of roasted ingredients, topped with cool ingredients, and crowned with feta.||Vinegar slows avocado discoloration and adds a pleasant tang. Keeping layers separate preserves contrasting temperatures. Adding just before serving protects texture and color.|
FOR FOCACCIA SUBSTITUTION: Brush 3-4 slices of artisan white bread with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Evenly scatter 1 teaspoon grated Parmesan, 1 teaspoon Italian herb mix, and ⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt on top. Cube as for Focaccia and proceed with Panzanella instructions.