holding-the-gray-salt Recipes

winter panzanella

Among the few Food Network chefs that don’t terrify me, Michael Chiarello is high on that list; his cooking, style and not overly-aggressive healthfulness fits cleanly with the type of foods I like to make and we like to eat. But, I have yet to make a recipe of his and it is, quite frankly, because he can be such a pain in the ass. The gray salt, the extra-virgin use for cooking, the $218 Balsamic, the fifteen-step recipes and his endless gadgets put me off. Would it still taste good from the kitchen of Simple Folk? Due to some haphazard sense of principle, I never bother finding out.

But he’s finally broken into the Smitten Kitchen with a winter vegetable panzanella I couldn’t resist, you know, the one he whipped up for his “holiday gift wrapping lunch,” my god. This week I had found myself missing that summery panzanella salad I’d made for a dinner party last month, but I wanted something more seasonal. I’ve had this roasted vegetable version bookmarked for a while, but… something about it seems lackluster. When Chiarello, in his just-enough-rumpled shirt said butternut squash and brussel sprouts, I had very much a “bingo!” moment.

I resisted the temptation to add other vegetables. Though I’m sure you could, in that rare case that only two can carry a meal, I say run with it, the accompanying lighter shopping bag. This was delicious, we are both happy and stuff stuffed, and I sense I’ll be trying more of his recipes in the future. But, I’m not yet convinced that he’s thinking about the toiling classes when he writes recipes. We have a stellar amount of dirty dishes from this one — two vegetable! — dish: three big and four little bowls, a grater, peeler, slotted spoon, two baking sheets, a pot, frying pan, colander, oh it goes on and on and on. I’ll try some shortcuts next time, roasting the brussels alongside the squash, tossing the crouton ingredients in the roasting pan, etc. But there will be a next time — this is delicious, seasonal food — and that makes up for a lot, though Alex, right now elbow-deep in suds, might disagree.

winter panzanella

Winter Panzanella
Adapted from Michael Chiarello

For the croutons:
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
6 cups day-old bread, crust removed, cubed
6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salad:
1 small red onion, sliced thinly lengthwise
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Gray salt
4 cups peeled, seeded, and diced butternut squash (1/2-inch dice)
1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed, then quartered
1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over moderate heat and cook until it foams. Add the garlic and thyme, and immediately add the bread cubes. Toss to coat well. Add most of the grated cheese and stir. Transfer bread to a baking sheet and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and salt and pepper and gently toss again while still warm to melt the cheese. Bake stirring once or twice, until the croutons are crisp and lightly colored on the outside but still soft within, about 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

Soak the sliced onion in the sherry vinegar and a pinch of salt for about 15 minutes. Set aside.

Toss the squash with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil, sage, salt, and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until the squash is tender and lightly caramelized, about 15 to minutes. Let cool.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the quartered Brussels sprouts and cook until tender but retain a touch of crispness, about 1 1/2 minutes, and drain.

Into the reserved red onions and vinegar, whisk in remaining 1/2 cup olive oil. Season with pepper.

In a large bowl combine the roasted squash, croutons, and Brussels sprouts. Add the vinaigrette and toss. Add the parsley leaves and toss again. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Garnish with grated Parmesan and serve immediately.

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57 comments on winter panzanella

  1. Wow! I do love panzanella and this looks divine. hehehe, it’s so funny how some dishes or cooks can end up with such an amazing number of dirty dishes from one recipe. I think this one might be worth it.

  2. Mmm. I have the Tra Vigne cookbook, and everything I have made out of it has been great. It’s similar to the quality of How to Cook Everything, in my estimation. He organizes the recipes by season and then by four or five vegetables that correspond to that season (does that make sense?). The recipes may be a bit fussy, but I love that he puts the veggies first.

    I love your site, by the way, especially your beautiful photos.

  3. I’m making Chiarello’s chicken with lemon and rosemary tomorrow for a small party — sounded simple and delicious. As does this.

    Oh, and I made those german pancakes/dutch babies yesterday morning. They came out perfectly.

  4. I think I saw this episode this weekend. He also made hot chocolate spiked with red wine. (What the?) Sometimes he just doesn’t make sense to me.

  5. that’s funny – I always wondered about that damn “gray salt”. What is it? Where does it come from? I googled “gray salt” and the first page that came up was Napa Style! I battle with the whole high-quality ingredients issue. There are some small things that make such a difference. Tomatoes for instance – I always try to buy organic, but I refuse to buy organic canned tomatoes because they taste tinny and they make what I put them in taste tinny too. I go for high quality canned tomatoes, but I pay the price ($4-5 a 34 oz can!). Ugh, my wallet’s hurting just thinking about my cooking addiction.

    This salad looks delicious but I must admit that I am un-initiated in the brussel sprout world. I’ve never had one, mostly out of some shame-faced fear of bitter things. I should try this recipe…

  6. i always tell my “h” “there is not easy about his easy entertaining” seriously – the steps he takes and the ingredients alone kill me which i why i too am reluctant to try anything he makes! perhaps i’ll try this though – or i’ll just let my “h” make it for me!

  7. Abby, Tanna, Meena – Thank you.

    Marce – Boo! I love their cabbage-y flavor, but I only started to embrace all things cabbage a couple years ago. It took forever.

    Melissa – That sounds great, actually. And I do like his cooking; I’ve already nabbed some of his ideas: I keep a shaker full of flour in the fridge for when I need to quickly flour the counter-top and a couple other tricks of his. I’m just cranky over his inherent fussiness.

    Carolyn – Glad you liked the pancakes! All mom recipes are hits! Chicken sounds good, though not my favorite flavor pairing, I have no doubt he can find a way to pull it off.

    M – We BOTH gagged about the wine thing. Blech!

    Rachael – Gray salt is boiled off seawater. That it! No refining or anything, hence its gray color. If I lived by the ocean, I would totally try to make my own and not, say, buy a small jar for what I did in Paris, which in hindsight was completely ridiculous. I think high-quality ingredients count, they can really improve a dish BUT a little perspective goes a long way. We’re talking about $8 salt here, with almost no chance that you’d taste the difference in a stew or soup. Or maybe someone else would and I just have plebian taste buds. I’m cool with that.

    Tammy – Indeed. He seems a wonderful cook, but Ina Garten has miles on him for “ease” in entertainment. (Well, so does Sandra Lee but let’s not go down that slippery slope, eh?) Apples and oranges, though. I’ll appreciate him a lot more when I have a dishwasher that is not my husband.

  8. That looks delicious… your photos are amazing.

    Michael Chiarello is one of our favorite Food TV cooks as well. I have yet to try one of his recipes though for many of the same reasons you do. I do, however, aspire to entertain like he does! He has so many nice little dinner parties and casual get togethers. Oh, what a life!

    I can’t use any salt without his “Never trust a white salt” motto going through my head.

    Lovely salad, lovely pictures and lovely blog.

  9. this looks fantastic! i’m going to have to try making it soon. as for gray salt – someone gave it to me as a foodie gift, and i’ve sprinkled it over food like hard boiled eggs, or tomatoes. but cooking with it, is a waste, you’ll never taste the difference! or i suppose neither you nor i can – maybe michael chiarello is a supertaster, who knows. and i TOTALLY agree with you on Ina Garten – love her. Though have you ever seen episodes with her husband? Never without a drink – quite hysterical.

  10. Deb–I have been following your sites since you first met Alex and really, really enjoy Smitten Kitchen as I am just learning to REALLY cook! Thank you for entertaining us!

    Today I spent almost an hour in Penzey’s Spices (www.penzeys.com) and thought of you! Speaking of which, they have Gray Sea Salt 4oz for $3. I hope you guys all have a good spice store nearby, as I am thoroughly in love!

    Secondly, this is for all of the brussel sprout and broccoli cookers out there…I bought my Grandma a Yankee Candle called “christmas cookies” one year, and it completely covers up the scent of things that smell weird when cooking! Even when she makes broccoli for dinner, her house always smells like she just baked a cake or cookies! They also carry a “vanilla cookie” scent which I think would do just as well.

  11. except for salting the water i’m going to cook veggies or pasta in, i haven’t used anything BUT gray salt in the 3 years or so i’ve been watching chiarello’s show. you definitely can taste the difference, especially in things that aren’t cooked much.
    there are a multitude of places one can buy it for considerably less $$ than napastyle.com however. if there’s a trader joe’s near you, they sell a 1# container for about $3. if not, penzeys.com was my source before i found it at tj’s.

  12. For a wealth of information regarding Gray Salt, as well as other naturally harvested sea salts, please check out http://www.saltworks.us

    This site is only one of many informative sites related to sea salt.

    Also, if you are curious or interested in using sea salt for it’s myriad health and culinary benefits, but find that you are turned off by (unnecessarily) exhorbitant pricing, I would suggest that you look around a bit for an affordable supplier. They are out there!!

    As for Chiarello….while he may come off as a bit pretentious at times, his work is solid, and the information he provides between the hype is accurate and entertaining. I have made several of his dishes, both in the home and professionally, and they have all been extremely well recieved. Of course, I may be a bit one-sided in this, as I have always had someone else to do the dishes :)

    Cheers,

    Chris

  13. This looks fantastic! My friends and I recently discovered Panzanella this summer (thanks to Ina Garten) and made it several times. With summer leaving this was to be one of our most-missed dishes. Thank you for sharing so we can now enjoy it through the winter months. :)

    However, I am not a huge fan of Brussels Sprouts…I enjoy cabbage to an extent, but Brussels are just too bitter for my taste. I would like to try it with chopped cabbage as an alternative, but know it tends to wilt when heated. Have you made it since? It looks like the last post was a few years ago…

  14. Oh my gosh, I love this recipe! But, yes, next time – throw the brussies in with the squash. Why would you EVER boil brussel sprouts when you can roast them?? And, one less pot to clean!

    Last night I made your chicken pot pie via Ina Garten. My first cpp ever, and it was a smashing success. Three days ago, I made your lemon-cranberry scones. I’ll be revisiting those time and again, mixing up the fruits depending on the season.

    I’ve been reading your site for nearly a year but this is my first comment. You are my go-to web site for food ideas and inspiration, and I’m sorry it took so long to tell you as much!

  15. This was delicious. To cut down on dishes I just roasted the sprouts and squash together on the same pan. And also used red wine vinegar. So yummy.

  16. This was very good. I roasted the veggies together, used dried herbs, skipped the parsley and just mixed the cheese in once the salad was complete–and it still had delicious flavor. We ate it as a main dish, but it probably would have been better to have at least one other dish. Even hummus and carrots or something simple would have been a welcome relief from crunching on bread. Would be a wonderful side dish.

    But the big question looming in my mind as I look at all that’s left … will this be good leftover, or a soggy mess?

  17. Just made this, and made a few adjustments! I’m of the belief that there’s no better way to cook brussels sprouts than to roast them (at least first, even if you’re finishing them in a saute pan!), so I threw those and the butternut squash in the oven together, along with a couple of cloves of unpeeled garlic. Also used a rosemary loaf to make the croutons, and like others, used a red wine vinegar and tossed in the cheese at the end. Delicious! Can’t wait to figure out more things to add to this–I love the idea of beans or perhaps zucchini. : )

  18. Just found this recipe with your “Surprise me!” button (which I love, by the way). I will definitely be trying this when the weather cools off, and I appreciate your warnings about the dirty dishes. Will probably do the crouton in the oven exclusively and skip the stovetop part. Will also roast the sprouts with the squash.

  19. Made this yesterday and it was amazing1!. I roasted the squash and brussel sprouts together. I only let these cool for about 5 minutes after removing them from the oven and then tossed them with the bread cubes, onion and dressing. I also only used about 4 cups of bread cubes instead of six so there was a higher veg ratio. I also added some crunchy chopped up bacon and it was divine! We served this in small cups on our dinner plate along with cumin encrusted pork loin and pomegranette feta leafy green salad.

  20. I didn’t realize it, but I’ve been making panzanella for years! I call it “chopped salad with a bunch of croutons,” but panzanella sounds better. I roasted the sprouts and squash together, too, skipped the cheese, and did the croutons entirely in the skillet so that I could cook them while the veggies were roasting. Delicious!

  21. Oh. Em. Gee. The taste and texture (not to mention color) combination in this dish is amazing! I almost like it better as left overs (minus the slightly soggy croutons) because the red onions have calmed down and are not as over powering. This will be a regular in our home- thanks!

  22. I wonder if you can just roast the croutons, sprouts and squash at the same time? I’m all about less dishes too, sister.
    I’m totally making this tonight. With regular sea salt.

  23. I am trying this with sweet potato instead because I don’t have butternut squash. I will report back and let you know how it goes.

  24. It was delicious with sweet potato. I also used homemade French bread to make croutons. I also added grape tomatoes and calamata olives along with bell pepper. It wasn’t as much of a pain because I blanched the Brussels and roasted sweet potato the night before. The rest was just simple assembly. Finished with a large handful of parsley.

  25. GREAT salad! Did with red wine vinegar due to supply and it worked out beautifully! I don’t know if my onion was too big though, but it was a LITTLE too onion-y. I think I’ll just do half an onion next time and at least 50% more brussel sprouts. Fantastic winter salad, everyone loved it, thank you!!

  26. Made this and served with some leftover spiral ham and it was a great combination. I cooked the brussel sprouts longer than the recipe suggested, and glad I did. Mine turned out slightly undercooked. I halved the onions, since the hubby usually objects to a lot of onion, it was the perfect amount. I thought it could use a bit more ” sauce” as it seemed a bit under dressed, but the flavors were great. Thank you for sharing.

  27. Just piping up to say, I love this one so much! Makes a bit of a mess, but totally worth it. The fresh herbs were really fantastic on it.

  28. I have been making this regularly for 2 years now. To cut down on the mess I’ve made my own adaptations. 1) Soak the onions and make the vinaigrette in the serving bowl. 2) Toss the squash and get it on its roasting pan. Toss bread cubes in same bowl, and just roast them too (I skip the cheese on the bread as it never sticks and use olive oil instead of butter). 3) Toss the Brussel Sprouts and then roast those too. I hate boiled Brussel sprouts!

    So 2 bowls, 3 sheet pans for roasting. I think it’s an improvement.

  29. Hi! So after being inspired to try to make something better/change a recipe after the book signing last week, I tackled this one! I LOVE the spring panzanella (first SK recipe I ever made)
    I decided to use the spring panzanella dressing and croutons, because I like oil better than butter on croutons (and this allowed for mixing the croutons in a small bowl (thus omitting skillet). I then ran some water in the bowl after and then made the dressing in it. I roasted the brussels in the oven, which, if I could find my large wilton pan…. I probably could have fit the squash and sprouts together. It worked out though because sprouts needed less time. Veggies were mixed on the pans too! Croutons were on a third pan…

    Much like the person above it was… 2 bowls, (small, large), three baking pans (probably could get down to two) peeler, one knife, microplane, measuring cup, and two measuring spoons!

  30. Would love to make this for an upcoming party! Is there is anything, in your opinion, that can be prepped and cooked pre-party? Like, the day before? Thank you! Love your site…it is a go-to for me! AND your cookbook is on my list for Santa!

  31. I made this today and it was fabulous. I wan’t going to add a comment here since it’s such an old post, but I see other recent comments so I guess it’s ok! Like many commenters above, I roasted the sprout quarters, both for deliciousness and to save on dishes. I didn’t have sherry vinegar so used a mix of red wine and apple cider, and upped the total amount of vinegar to about 1/3 cup. I used half of a largish red onion, but think next time I would use even less, and cut it smaller, as there were too many floppy onion strands for my taste.

    Kosha, I know this is more than a month after you commented, but for next time: You can do much of the prep the day before, and just toss the components together last minute. Make the croutons, cool and store in a ziploc; roast the veggies and chop the parsley and store covered in the fridge. Maybe just marinate the onions last minute, so they don’t get too soft?

  32. Today’s wine is fermented and naturally contains yeast, this would trigger an asthma attack. You will discover that every port of call has something unique to enjoy. The European budget airlines are causing increased competition for the whole family.

  33. Michael is a neighbor of mine. He does not know it of course. lol
    I would roast the brussel sprouts with the squash..saves one pot right there!

    1. How do you not resist going over to borrow flour? I couldn’t. Then I’d nose my way into the kitchen and say “What are you cooking? Can I try some?” which is exactly what my four year-old would do. Hm, this is probably why I don’t get invited many places. ;)

  34. He has a BIG gate leading to his vineyard. Wish I could just go knock on the door though. I am making this recipe tonight along with some great sirloin and roasted sweet potato fries. (no squash in the salad)

  35. I made this tonight, and thought it was good as a main dish. Neither my husband or I like Brussels sprouts, but we thought they were well-masked and quite good in this recipe. However, I found it to have way too much onion; next time, I would briefly saute them to sweeten them up a bit. I would also suggest removing the pan from the heat before you add the Parmesan, or just tossing the entire amount with the bread on the pan before you put it in the oven. We also kept the croutons out of the main bowl so that we could keep them crisp for the leftovers. I’ve never made croutons from scratch, and they were my favourite part of the dish!

  36. Made this tonight and it was delicious! The only improvement I can suggest (and this would take are of the amount of dishes problem!) is to roast the brussels sprouts (and extra garlic) with the butternut squash! I also cut out two cups of bread, and that was a perfectly adequate amount. I’ll definitely be making this again soon, thanks for the great recipe!

  37. Hi, So I made this last winter, just loved the colors and after making a dozen or more of your recipes (all a success) i just wanted to thank you for the inspiration and the awesome recipes that work each time (must have the same kitchen!) have mostly the same ingredients in my fridge and closet but live in the south of France. Anyway i don’t have brussel sprouts yet but can’t wait to make this one again!!!! Thanks!

  38. How “vinegar-y” is this? (A strange question, I know). I usually don’t like vinegar (but love all of the other ingredients) and just want to know how strong the vinegar taste will be. Also, do you recommend any substitutes for vinegar? Thanks!

  39. This sounds great! I might chop some dates and add them to the vinegar and red onions, which is totally not my original idea (I got it from the Jerusalem cookbook), but I bet it’d be great with the vinegar and Brussels sprouts. Can’t wait to try this one!

  40. OK, I am a noob and I know I will get mocked but – fourth salad ingredient, butternut squash peeled, seeded, and cubed: IS IT COOKED FIRST??? I have a recently turned vegetarian daughter and would love to cook her a completely veggie meal (she eats cheese and dairy) but don’t want her trying to chew a squash cube that is inedible. Thanks!