Since this is quite an involved recipe, I like to prepare a few aspects of this panzanella the day before to save time and mess on the day of a special event, such as Thanksgiving. By doing a bit of advance prep (about 30 minutes the day before), all you have to do on the day is bake the squash and bread, then toss it all together just before serving. I like to serve this recipe warm, so I time the cooking so that the squash and bread come out of the oven just before our planned mealtime. This recipe is adapted from The First Mess Cookbook (2017) by Laura Wright. Reprinted by permission of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited.
Handful of celery leaves or fresh parsley leaves, for garnish
The day before (steps 1-4): Make the dressing: In a small jar, place the balsamic vinegar, minced garlic, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Screw on the lid and shake to combine. Chill in the fridge.
Slice the sourdough bread into 1-inch cubes until you have 4 cups. Place into a large bag or container and leave it on the counter.
Slice each squash down the middle, lengthwise. With a spoon, scrape out all of the seeds and discard them. Slice the squash into 1/4-inch “half-moon” slices, and place them into a large zip bag, bowl, or container. Mince the rosemary and thyme and add it to the squash. Chill the squash and herbs in the fridge (covering, if necessary).
In a separate zip bag or container, place the sliced kale, chopped celery, and pomegranate seeds. Chill in the fridge (covering, if necessary).
The next day (steps 5-8): About 15 minutes before you begin, remove the dressing and squash from the fridge and place them on the counter so that they can come to room temperature. Position two racks near the centre of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C), and line two extra-large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Spoon the squash and herbs onto one of the baking sheets. Add a tablespoon of oil and toss until the squash is thoroughly coated. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast the squash for about 30 to 38 minutes, until nicely brown on the bottoms. (There’s no need to flip halfway through baking unless you want them evenly browned.)
While the squash is roasting, spread the cubed sourdough onto the remaining baking sheet and toss it in a couple teaspoons of oil. When you have 10 to 15 minutes left of the squash’s roasting time, place the sourdough in the oven with the squash and continue roasting for 10 to 15 minutes. The bread should feel lightly toasted when it’s ready, but it shouldn’t look brown.
While the squash and sourdough are roasting, place the kale, celery, pomegranate seeds, and dressing into a large serving bowl. When the squash and bread are finished cooking, add them into the bowl, and toss well, until combined. Season the panzanella with more salt, to taste, if desired. Serve warm with a garnish of celery or parsley leaves scattered on top. This recipe is best enjoyed immediately, or within a couple of hours of preparing.