This was originally destined to be a classic panzanella, that summeriest of salads, whose core is bread and tomatoes, drenched in fruity olive oil and vinegar, dressed up with capers, or olives, or roasted peppers. But then the weather turned, and suddenly, pretending that it was still summer was kind of a joke. Use a dense, dark, crusty bread, drown it vinegar and oil, and feel like a peasant somewhere in the remote country of central Europe, eating this with your fingers after 12 hours harvesting crops.
FALL BREAD SALAD
6 cups rustic bread, torn (Levain was used here)
1 apple, red or pink and firm, sliced very thinly lengthwise
2 cups baby arugula
1/2 cup hazelnuts, chopped
1 medium onion, sliced lengthwise
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for bread
3 Tbs cup balsamic vinegar
salt + pepper
goat cheese, crumbled
For the hazelnuts:
What I’ve begun to do to avoid charring nuts is toast them in my toaster oven at 250 for 10-15 minutes. Alternately, you can toss them in the oven with the bread, but watch them carefully.
Preheat oven to 350.
Toss the torn bread in 1 or 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt. Place on a baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes, so that they crisp up but are not quite as firm as a crouton. You can place the hazelnuts in here simultaneously, remembering to keep a close eye on them so that they don’t burn.
Meanwhile, heat a skillet over a low flame. Add the onions, stirring frequently. When the onions have softened a little, add the garlic. Continue to stir frequently so that the garlic doesn’t burn, until the onions are soft and translucent.
Whisk together the oil and vinegar for the dressing, adding salt and pepper to taste.
Remove the bread from the oven. Place into a large bowl. Drizzle the dressing over the bread and toss. Add the apples, onion, arugula, parsley and hazelnuts and toss.
Divide salad into bowls and top with crumbled goat cheese.
As with many things, this will improve if left to sit overnight and marinate.