Holiday Panzanella

Holiday Panzanella

Preparing the perfect holiday meal can be an overwhelming task, even for the most seasoned of chefs. But what happens when one of your guests is undergoing cancer treatments?

While going through radiation and chemotherapy, some cancer patients may experience a loss of appetite and change in tastes. Old favorites may become unappetizing, and some foods may be difficult to eat. By reworking and rethinking your menu, you’ll provide a crowd pleasing, patient-approved feast without compromising holiday tradition.

Full of roasted winter squash, nutritious greens and whole grains and topped with a delicious vinaigrette, this panzanella could almost be a complete dinner in one bowl.  Unlike others, this salad offers your daily dose of red-orange and leafy green vegetables, along with additional sources of B vitamins and beta carotene.

Balsamic Butternut, Kale and Cranberry Panzanella

Makes eight servings. Per serving: 260 calories, 11 grams fat, 6 grams fiber, 9 grams protein.


Roasted butternut squash

  • 3-4 medium sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled and sliced into ¾-inch cubes
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Toasted croutons and seeds

  • 1 small loaf (about ½ pound) crusty whole grain bread, sliced into 1-inch cubes
  • 4 tablespoons chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Kale salad

  • 1 large bunch of Tuscan kale or regular curly kale, ribs removed and chopped into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • ½ small red onion, sliced super thin
  • ¼ cup light balsamic vinaigrette



  1. Preheat oven to 420 degrees Fahrenheit with racks in the upper third and lower third of the oven.
  2. On one baking sheet, toss the cubed butternut in enough olive oil to lightly coat all sides. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and arrange the butternut in a single layer. Roast on the lower third rack until the butternut is tender throughout and caramelized on the edges, about 35 to 40 minutes, stirring midway.
  3. While squash is roasting, combine the cubed bread with the pecans and salt. Drizzle on 2 tablespoons olive oil and toss to lightly coat the bread. Arrange the mixture in a single layer on a lined baking sheet.
  4. After stirring the squash, place the sheet of croutons on the upper rack. Toast the bread for 10 to 13 minutes until the edges are golden. Remove the croutons from the oven and check the squash. If caramelized, remove from oven. If not golden brown, continue to cook squash for another 5-10 minutes. Once the butternut is done, remove the pan from the oven and set it aside to cool.
  5. When squash and croutons are baking, transfer the chopped kale to a big salad bowl. Sprinkle a small pinch of sea salt over the kale and massage the leaves with your hands for approximately 30 seconds until the leaves darken.
  6. Add the grated cheese, cranberries and red onion to the bowl of kale. Drizzle dressing into the bowl, then toss to coat. Add the roasted squash and croutons and gently toss to combine.

Recipe adapted from Cookie and Kate.