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Rachael Ray's Warm Autumn Panzanella
This is a total cheat on the Italian takeover we are having in this issue. Bacon, maple syrup, and toasted pumpkin seed oil have no place in a traditional Italian kitchen, but they do have a place in mine!
4 to 5 cups torn or coarsely chopped stale peasant-style Italian bread or boule (about half of a 1 lb. loaf)
1 butternut squash (about 2 lb.)
2 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper
A little freshly grated nutmeg (grate it while making one pass over the pan)
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 red onion, chopped
1 tbsp. Calabrian chile paste or 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 bunch Tuscan kale, center stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
4 slices cold meaty bacon, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp. pure maple syrup
3 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar or apple cider vinegar
¼ cup grainy Dijon mustard
¼ cup toasted pumpkin seed oil or EVOO
½ cup pepitas, toasted
About 1cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, shaved with a vegetable peeler or on the slicing side of a box grater
Preheat the oven to 375°. Spread the bread out on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until deep golden brown and fragrant, about 18 minutes.
Cut the neck off of the butternut squash. Peel the neck and coarsely grate. (Reserve the bulbous bottom for roasting on another night.)
In a large deep skillet, heat the olive oil, two turns of the pan, over medium-high. Add the grated squash; season with salt and pepper, nutmeg, and smoked paprika. Add the onion and chile paste. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the kale and stock. Simmer over medium heat until the kale wilts, the stock is absorbed, and the squash is soft, about 5 minutes.
In another large skillet, cook the bacon over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until almost crisp, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic. Stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the maple syrup. Add the vinegar. (Turn your head away from the pan—the fumes can be very strong!) Stir in the mustard. Remove from heat. Whisk the pumpkin seed oil into the dressing.
Toss the bread with the squash and greens. Remove from heat. Mix in the warm bacon dressing. Top with the pepitas and curls of Parm.