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Savory Bread Salad

Although this salad has plenty of peppery arugula, what makes it stand out at the table is the interplay of the warm toasted bread, crunchy pine nuts and slightly chewy pancetta. The vinaigrette is made special by sautéing the shallots, which helps distribute their flavor throughout the salad.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cubed pain au levain or country sourdough
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 4 oz. pancetta, chopped
  • 2 Tbs. minced shallots
  • 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 6 oz. baby arugula

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 350°F.

Spread the bread cubes on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with 2 Tbs. of the olive oil. Bake until the bread is toasted but still slightly chewy, about 8 minutes. Let cool.

In a fry pan over medium-low heat, toast the pine nuts, stirring continuously, until golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl.

In the same pan over medium heat, combine the pancetta and 1 Tbs. of the olive oil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta is browned and crisp, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 Tbs. of the fat from the pan. Let the pan cool slightly.

Return the pan to medium heat, add the shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool. Add the vinegar to the cooled shallots, then slowly whisk in the 1/2 cup olive oil until well blended to make a vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large serving bowl, toss together the bread cubes, arugula, pine nuts and pancetta. Add the vinaigrette and toss to coat evenly. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Variation: For an entirely different but equally delicious bread salad, substitute toasted sliced almonds for the pine nuts, watercress for the arugula and orange segments for the pancetta.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Comfort Food, by Rick Rodgers (Oxmoor House, 2009).