Thursday, November 10, 2011

Broccoli Panzanella

There's a decidedly crisp chill in the morning, scarves are coming out of the closet, and I have a definite craving for some hot apple cider.  It's official; summer's over, even here in San Diego.  Of course, seeing as today's high was 74F, everyone's still in sandals, and I recently went to a pool party, I'm not quite ready to start blogging exclusively about braised meats, hearty stews, and all things root vegetable.

This broccoli panzanella is a good compromise of the seasons; it's a refreshing, summery slaw, but the star of the dish is broccoli, a cool season crop.  As soon as I saw the recipe, I needed to try that tangy buttermilk dressing.  Mostly though, I had to make it because I'm a sucker for slaws.  I'm not fooling anyone by calling this a panzanella.  Sure, bread is added here for a reason--it contributes the perfect amount of saltiness and texture--but the foundation for this recipe is unabashedly a slaw.  To be honest, I'm obsessed with slaws and perhaps you can tell, given that they're featured in >20% of my posts now.

I love almost all slaws, but this dish in particular is special.  With its light but creamy dressing, it's decadent yet still healthful.  There's a sweetness from the cranberries, but also some heat from the red onions.  It's a veritable playground of textures, from the crispy croutons to the crunchy broccoli, and every cranberry is a sweet surprise.  I can't stop at just one serving, but hey--it's broccoli, so eat up!

Broccoli Panzanella
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Total Recipe Cost: $5.54 for 8 servings!

A panzanella is traditionally an Italian salad of bread and tomatoes with an oil and vinegar dressing.  I took some liberties with naming this dish--panzanella is such a fun word, I had to use it!  However, I do want to highlight the bread component in this recipe.  In short, I'm a big advocate of homemade croutons; they're so easy, so cheap, and sooo perfect for snacking.  :)

1/2 loaf of crusty french bread
2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup of walnuts
2 heads of broccoli
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup of dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 400F.  Cut bread into small chunks and arrange on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and generously season with oregano, salt, and pepper to taste.  I like my croutons crispy on the outside, and slightly chewy on the inside, so I toast them for 10 minutes--increase the time to 15-20 minutes if you like them crisp throughout.  Set the croutons* aside to cool.

To toast the walnuts, arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet and (if you are lazy like me) put them under the broiler for 2 minutes, or bake for 10 minutes at 350F.  Let these cool before chopping into smaller pieces.

Meanwhile, chop the broccoli into small pieces, then add the chopped red onion, dried cranberries, and toasted walnuts.  Whisk** the dressing ingredients together and then toss with the broccoli mix.  This may be too much dressing, depending on the size of your broccolis, so just add the dressing to taste.  Store in the refrigerator until you're ready to eat, then combine with croutons immediately before eating!

Unit Cost
Total Cost
½ loaf of French bread
2 T olive oil



½ C buttermilk
1/3 C mayonnaise
2 T cider vinegar
1 T sugar
1 C walnuts
2 heads broccoli
½ small red onion
½ C dried cranberries


*Croutons are shockingly easy to make!!!  No one should ever have to buy store-made!  Also, the magic of croutons is that you never have to worry about buying too much bread, because once it goes stale--perfect for making croutons!  Problem fixed with a delicious solution.  Just store them away in a sealed container... I'm a little embarrassed to say how long I've kept them for (ahem,  >1 week).  
**A lot of times I just end up mixing vigorously with chopsticks...usually when I'm cooking alone and know that I'd have to wash the whisk myself.  But really, any method works, just get the dressing smooth!


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