Sep 132014

Winter Panzanelle

I’ve gotten an early (wishful thinking) jump on colder temperatures with this wintery hybrid of two classic Italian salads — panzanella and puntarelle alla Romana.

Panzanella typically features a lot of bread cubes and summer-ripe tomatoes, plus a variety of other accents — depending on who’s making it. Puntarelle alla Romana involves an Italian variety of chicory called puntarelle that shows up in Rome in late fall and throughout winter, in an anchovy-spiked dressing.

This salad combines the best of both, using kale (for lack of puntarelle), plenty of big, crunchy croutons, a lemon/anchovy dressing, and some white anchovies to finish things off. (I would not be mad at a few big shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano, either!)

I can eat a BIG bowl of this on its own, as a meal, but it would also make a wonderful accompaniment to all manner of proteins.

Winter Panzanella + Rosso di Montalcino

Pairing: Rosso di Montalcino

This salad would certainly work nicely with one of those smooth Italian whites that I love, like a Greco di Tufo. But I was just in the mood for red and thoroughly enjoyed it with one of my favorite Italian reds — a Rosso di Montalcino. Often called a “baby Brunello,” Rosso offers that unmistakably Sangiovese combination of pure cherry, earthy tea leaves, light citrus and bitter almond notes — at a fraction of the Brunello price. And they’re really drinkable, if you know what I mean. I doubt there’s ever been a Rosso opened in my house that wasn’t completely finished — and in relatively short order.

This one was the Val di Suga 2009 Rosso di Montalcino ($22). Pretty and bright, with a nicely balanced array of red cherry, raspberry and spiced tea, picking up a light touch of dry minerals through the moderate finish. Find it!

Recipe: Winter Panzanella

about 1/2 loaf rustic Italian bread
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 good quality, oil-packed anchovies
3 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
5 cups baby kale
4 marinated white anchovies

Preheat oven to 325F.

Cut the bread into 1/2-inch cubes — you should have about 1 1/2 cups total. Place the bread cubes on a baking tray and drizzle with 1/4 cup of the olive oil, the salt and the pepper, tossing to coat. Bake until bread is crisp and golden brown, about 15-20 minutes, shaking and/or stirring the bread a couple of times along the way.

Make the dressing by combining the oil-packed anchovies, vinegar, lemon juice and 1/2 cup of water in a blender, pulsing to combine. With the blender running on medium speeds, drizzle in the remaining 3/4 cup olive oil slowly, until the dressing emulsifies and gets creamy.

Place the kale in a large serving bowl and drizzle with some of the dressing — you may not end up using it all, depending on how you measure/pack your kale. (Leftover dressing keeps nicely for at least a couple of days in the fridge.) Toss well, using your hands to massage the dressing into the kale. Add the toasted bread cubes and toss again, just to combine. Serve immediately, garnished with the white anchovies. Serves 4 as a starter salad.

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