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Autumn panzanellas

Three hearty bread-and-veggie salads.

Photo by Jim Scherer / Styling by Catrine Kelty

Fennel and Radicchio Panzanella.

Known mainly as a tomato-heavy summer dish, panzanella, the Italian bread salad, also adapts to autumnal ingredients, including braised fennel, roasted squash, and roasted mushrooms. Because these items are less juicy than ripe tomatoes, you have to go a little heavier on the dressing to soften the bread. It’s important to use high-quality bread and to toast it to a medium-light shade so that it will retain some texture. Even so, time is not kind to bread salads — they get soggy if they sit for an hour, so serve them without delay.

All three recipes here are hearty, and the mushroom and the squash versions become main dishes with the addition of shaved Parmesan or crumbled feta.

FENNEL AND RADICCHIO PANZANELLA

Makes about 3 quarts

1-2 tablespoons plus ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium fennel bulbs (about 2 pounds), cut lengthwise into ½-inch slices, plus ¼ cup chopped fennel fronds

½ cup low-sodium chicken broth

Salt and pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon fennel seed, lightly toasted, cooled, and crushed

3 tablespoons sherry vinegar

5 cups very stale hearty Italian, French, or country bread (not sourdough), crust removed, in ¾-inch cubes, and toasted medium-light

1½ cups halved seedless black or red grapes

1 medium head radicchio, cored and thinly sliced (about 5 cups)

1½ cups torn parsley leaves

¾ cup Parmesan shavings

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In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil until shimmering. Add the fennel (do not crowd — cook in 2 batches, with the extra tablespoon of oil, if necessary) and brown, undisturbed, 7 to 9 minutes, turning slices over halfway through. Add the broth, 2 tablespoons water, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste, then stir and scrape the pan to dissolve the fond, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook, shaking occasionally, until fennel is tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 16 minutes longer. Transfer to a plate, and when cool, remove cores (you should have about 3 cups fennel). Reserve the liquid left in the skillet, adding broth or water to equal 3 tablespoons.

Meanwhile, in a large nonreactive bowl, mix the garlic, fennel seed, vinegar, the braising liquid, ¾ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Vigorously whisk in the ½ cup oil (you should have a scant 1 cup dressing), and pour a third of the dressing into a small bowl and set aside. Add the bread cubes, fennel, and grapes to the large bowl, toss, and set aside until bread has softened slightly, 15 to 30 minutes. Add the radicchio, parsley, Parmesan, and the dressing from the small bowl, and toss lightly. Taste the salad, adjust the seasoning, if necessary, transfer to a serving platter, garnish with the chopped fronds, and serve at once.

TIP Keeping the core in the fennel slices makes them easier to turn in the pan. Once cooked, cut out the core.

jim scherer

TIP Keeping the core in the fennel slices makes them easier to turn in the pan. Once cooked, cut out the core.

ROASTED MUSHROOM AND TOMATO PANZANELLA

Makes about 2 quarts

1½ pounds cremini mushrooms, quartered

2 tablespoons plus ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

3½ tablespoons sherry vinegar

2 teaspoons finely grated zest and 3 tablespoons juice from 1 orange

2 small shallots, minced

5 oil-packed anchovies, minced (about 1 generous tablespoon)

5 cups very stale hearty Italian, French, or country bread (not sourdough), crust removed, in ¾-inch cubes, and toasted medium-light

1 dry pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

6 cups (loosely packed) thinly sliced romaine lettuce

With the rack in the center position, heat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the mushrooms with 2 tablespoons oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until liquid is released and evaporated, 15 to 20 minutes. Taking care to avoid escaping steam when you open the oven door, stir the mushrooms, then continue roasting until deeply browned, 5 to 10 minutes longer, then cool to room temperature.

In a large nonreactive bowl, mix the vinegar, orange zest and juice, shallots, anchovies, ¾ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Vigorously whisk in the ½ cup oil (you should have a scant 1 cup dressing), and pour about a third of the dressing into a small bowl and set aside. Add the bread cubes and mushrooms to the dressing in the large bowl, toss, and set aside until the bread has softened slightly, 15 to 30 minutes. Add the tomatoes, romaine, and the dressing from the small bowl, and toss lightly to coat. Taste the salad, adjust the seasoning, if necessary, transfer to a serving platter, and serve at once.

ROASTED SQUASH AND SPINACH PANZANELLA

Makes about 2 quarts

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2½ tablespoons maple syrup

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 small shallots, minced

Salt and pepper

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

5 cups very stale hearty Italian, French, or country bread (not sourdough), crust removed, in ¾-inch cubes, and toasted medium-light

3 cups roasted butternut squash cubes

6 cups (loosely packed) baby spinach leaves

1 Asian pear, thinly sliced

In a large nonreactive bowl, mix the lemon juice, vinegar, syrup, mustard, shallots, ¾ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Vigorously whisk in the oil (you should have a scant 1 cup dressing), and pour about a third of the dressing into a small bowl and set aside. Add the bread cubes to the dressing in the large bowl, toss, and set aside until they have softened slightly, 15 to 30 minutes. Add the squash, spinach, pear slices, and the dressing from the small bowl, and toss lightly. Taste the salad, adjust the seasoning, if necessary, transfer to a serving platter, and serve at once.

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