Thursday, March 7, 2013

In Season: Grapefruit - Panzanella Salad with Red Grapefruit, Avocado & Fennel

Beautiful Ruby Red Grapefruit, Photo: NK
Citrus Fruits really hit their peak in the winter season, and Grapefruit is no exception. So when I got my hands on a really gorgeous Red Grapefruit, I knew it deserved a very special preparation. 

I've made many a salad using citrus and fennel before (like this Blood Orange and Fennel Salad), but never a Panzanella. If you aren't familiar, Panzanella is a Tuscan Salad preparation and yet another fantastic way to use leftover bread (a method in the same spirit as our last Tuscan dish, Pappa al Pomodoro). Panzanella is typically a Summer Salad made with chunks of often stale Bread incorporated throughout (more info on its history HERE). When the salad dressing soaks through these little croutons of goodness, extraordinary things happen. As you might imagine, many such humble dishes arose as a way to make peasant food as delicious as possible. When I happened on a wonderful wintery riff on Panzanella from a blog called the The Vintage Mixer, I knew it was just the thing. 

With a few very minor tweaks to tailor this lovely recipe to my taste, the result was quite extraordinary.The key to this dish is using extremely ripe Red Grapefruit. If you are looking for a wonderful Summer Panzanella, my go to recipe is from Ina Garten. Check it out HERE

Winter Panzanella with Ruby Red Grapefruit, Avocado, and Fennel

Winter Panzanella with Ruby Red Grapefruit, Avocado, and Fennel
Photo: NK
Lightly Adapted from The Vintage Mixer
Serves 3-4

For the Salad
1 large Fennel Bulb, tough middle discarded, and then thinly sliced
1/3 Red Onion, thinly sliced
1 large and very ripe Ruby Red Grapefruit, peeled and cut into bite sized sections
1 Ripe Avocado, cubed

For the Panzanella Croutons
4 Slices Round Semolina Loaf cubed, or Crusty Bread of your choice (about 1.5 Cups)
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil 
1/4 teaspoon Smoked Hot Spanish Paprika, or Regular Paprika
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/8 teaspoon Pepper
Finished Chunks of Bread, Photo: NK

For the Dressing 
Scant 1/4 Cup Fresh Red Grapefruit Juice
1 1/2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
1 teaspoon Agave Syrup or Honey
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/8 teaspoon Pepper
3 Tablespoons chopped Fennel Fronds

Prepare the Bread Cubes by placing them in a ziploc bag or bowl, drizzling with Olive Oil, sprinkling with the Spanish Paprika, Salt and Pepper. Shake or mix until evenly coated. Lightly toast the Breadcrumbs on a cookie sheet in toaster or oven until golden. Set aside. 

Next, combine all the dressing ingredients, and set aside. 

To prepare, Toss Grapefruit, Onion, Fennel and Bread Cubes together and sprinkle with a good amount of the dressing (you may have leftover). Sprinkle some of the remaining dressing over the Avocado. Plate the salad, dot with the Avocado, garnish with some Fennel Fronds and serve!

Photo, NK

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