By Taylor Sutton, MS, RD
United Supermarkets’ Lifestyle Desk
While this may not be a traditional panzanella salad, it’s the perfect salad for fall with it’s delicious warm and inviting flavors. It’s great by itself or accompanied by a protein like grilled chicken or fish. So let’s dive into not only how to make this salad but any salad sure to excite your taste buds.
The base of a salad most of the time is lettuce. Now what you buy can depend on quite a few things like nutrient profile, flavor profile, texture, price point, and ad items. With all of this in mind let’s talk about nutrient profile first. There will be some slight micronutrient differences between all of the items but for the most part they are all very similar and have their own unique vitamin and mineral content. In terms of flavor profile and texture this might be more prevalent to think about. For example, kale is going to have a different vibe than iceberg so having your overall theme in mind when you start building your salad is key.
The fruit and vegetables of a salad only enhance the direction you are going. There is no wrong fruit or veggie to add as they are all great and something delicious is going to come out of it. When you are building your salad, think about what is driving you to create it. We were inspired by fall so this meant grabbing seasonal produce like butternut squash, apples, and figs. If we did this in summer we would have chosen tomatoes and corn to grab the fresh seasonal flare.
The grain of a traditional panzanella is cubed bread and we can’t pass up a good loaf. We opted for sourdough because it has a lower amount of gluten and has some pre- and probiotic properties that can help aid in digestion. Not only that, but it complements our choice of cheese. Any carbohydrate on a salad can work from rice, couscous, barley, beans, legumes, cubed French bread and so on. Carbohydrates are a staple in the diet as they deliver their rich vitamin and mineral content as well as their fiber, and most of all, the most available source of energy.
The dairy we went with was blue cheese. Traditionally, it goes well with figs. It also gives a bright funky tasting note to this salad and helps add a creamy texture. If blue cheese isn’t your thing, goat cheese is also a great option here. We love suggesting adding dairy components to the diet with salads because the fat helps absorb other nutrients. You’d likely be adding a rich fat source with your dressing of choice but dairy is another excellent and tasty way to do it as well. Also, dairy adds more amazing nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, magnesium and protein.
Let’s not forget a good quality source of protein. We didn’t add any on this salad as it’s more of a side dish but adding grilled chicken, or fish would be excellent. Some other high quality options to add to any salad would be cans or packets of chicken or tuna if you don’t have any leftovers available. Ground turkey and beef are also excellent and quick ways to add a high quality protein. Let’s not forget too that there is some protein found in the grains, nuts, and dairy categories as well if you add those.
The extras that complete a salad are things like nuts, seeds, dried fruits, vinaigrettes or salad dressings, fruit zest, freeze dried fruit or vegetables, and so on. Be mindful of your portion size of these fun foods as they are delicious but can add up in calories very quickly.
Point being, sad desk salads don’t need to exist. Think in terms of ‘MyPlate’ and jazz up your next one by adding more veggies, fruits, whole grains, dairy and protein.
Fall Panzanella Salad
1 lb box of spring mix lettuce
1 loaf fresh Sourdough from bakery
1 large honey crisp apple
1 acorn squash
1/2 cup walnuts
4 oz Blue cheese
Optional topping: 3 Figs
Preheat oven to 350.
Cut bread into 1 inch cubes. Place on large baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Slice acorn squash (skin on) in half and spoon out the seeds. Slice into 1 inch cubes. Place on another baking sheet
Bake for 15 minutes or until fork tender
Put lettuce in large mixing bowl
Dice apple and place on top of lettuce
Layer on walnuts
Once bread and squash are ready place over salad.
Finally, top with blue cheese and enjoy!