I was inspired to make a bread salad by the Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. I was happy to meet Peter G. of Souvlaki for the Soul at the Foodbuzz Festival and impressed that he made it in from Australia. Peter is a very talented photographer and if you look on my sidebar, you’ll see the BloggerAid Cookbook, that we were both a part of. I have a recipe and photograph inside, but Peter designed and shot the cover. One visit to his site and you’ll know why.
We shared the signature roast chicken for two that comes with a bread salad, and I liked it so much, I created a Thanksgiving version for our holiday. To get in a little practice, a few days prior, I made this dish with butternut squash, corn, and shrimp.
I love one dish meals as long as they don’t fall into the casserole category. A casserole forces you to eat pureed, smooshy food where the components have become one. One-dish suppers like this allow me to see and appreciate each component and even eat one bite of one thing. You still get distinct and separate tastes and texture.
We take bread for granted, but try to imagine what it took to bake bread from scratch out in the country with no gadgets. That bread is not going to get thrown out. Every bit will be used for something. In my house growing up, bread had a special meaning, and I’m sure part of it was practical tradition and part of it spiritual. I often heard things like “never throw bread away.” I was told this would be like throwing away God’s body. Never put bread upside down on the table, and never put bread directly on table without a bread plate. It was respect for the bread that represented Christ. So if bread was left over, it went into bread salad, meatballs, over pasta, or bread crumbs, and the overflow went to the birds. Never ever ever could bread be thrown in the garbage.
I used left over tuscan bread from Provence, a local bakery that makes the perfect bread for this. You want bread that has big open holes, is chewy, but not dense.
The bread is cut into squares or torn and toasted in oven. One small butternut squash, cut in a large dice, with sauteed onion, brings the autumn/winter flavor, while a blood orange olive oil and rose vinegar bring acid and brightness. The surprise is the grilled shrimp, grilled right in the same pan that cooked the squash. And, as an extra nice surprise,I had left over corn, which added another flavor and texture.
The recipe I am providing is more of a guideline or inspiration and has nothing to do with the long and more involved recipe for the Zuni Cafe bread salad. I’m thinking that in the summer you could do the same thing, but change from butternut squash to tomato, from thyme to basil and add in some capers. The idea is to use the ingredients you have, and figure out the harmony.
Recipe for Bread Salad with Shrimp
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
small butternut squash (enough for 2 cups of diced squash)
1 medium onion, finely diced
4 thick slices stale tuscan or peasant bread cut into large squares (or torn)
extra virgin olive oil (I used a flavored blood orange olive oil)
rose wine vinegar
1 pound wild shrimp, peeled, deveined, rinsed, patted dry
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup corn
3-5 sprigs fresh thyme
4 cups fresh machê
sea salt, freshly ground pepper
Put butter in pan, add onion, until softened. Add squash. Cook until softened, nearly caramelized.
Add corn. Toast bread. Toss bread with butternut squash mixture. Put contents in bowl. In same pan, add small amount of olive oil. Add oil and vinegar to slightly soften bread and to taste. Cook shrimp, just until pink. Toss with olive oil, vinegar (to taste), salt pepper, shrimp, fresh thyme.