Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Ready to eat like it's spring: Panzanella

Spring has sprung, it really has. The grass is green--I think it's the greenest it's EVER been, and when I mow, the bags fill up in, like, a minute. Like, really. (Say it in your best Valley Girl voice, you know you want to.)

And in keeping with spring-ish-ness everywhere, I am finally getting out of the soups/stews/pasta doldrums and back into salads and freshness and Asparagus. Asparagus with a capital A! It's local, it's cheap and it's yummy. I could eat it three meals a day.

And in the salad realm, I could probably eat panzanella for two of those three meals. It's a salad that has a few core basics (um, bread?!) and the variations are endless. Here are a few iterations that appeal to me:

Ina Garten's Grilled Panzanella: A pretty traditional take on the original with basil, tomatoes and cucumbers.

Strawberry Panzanella: This would probably be either a dessert or breakfast option, but looks really yummy!

Salmon Panzanella: This would be popular around here, for sure. A twist on the original (peppers, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, capers) with cooked, cubed salmon.

Cous Cous a la Panzanella: Replace the bread with couscous, not a bad idea.

Spring Panzanella: Now you're talking my language... peas, asparagus and spinach. Sounds amazing.

Mushroom Panzanella: A nice twist, the mushrooms. Maybe once I get out morel hunting...

So with all those ideas overflowing in my brain, here's where I ended up recently... this salad has a lot to do with what's currently in the fridge!

Spring Panzanella
(Feeds 2, generously...)
2 cups tomatoes, cut into large chunks
2 cups day old (somewhat dry and hard) crusty bread (Italian or French loaf), cut into chunks the same size as the tomatoes
2 cups asparagus, roasted and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 cups greens, washed and dried
1 cup baby potatoes, roasted and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (I had mini-babies, so I left them whole)
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/3 cup kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1/4 cup good olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup parmesan cheese shreds
Salt and pepper to taste

Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl and let sit for a half-hour, at least. (I usually have a hard time leaving it alone, and generally eat it immediately! What a rebel.)

One critical thing is to have the bread be old/dry, and not fresh. Fresh bread will suck up all of the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and get mushy. If you don't have day-old bread, put your cut up cubes in a 300-degree oven for 5-10 minutes until the edges get dried out

Other things I like to add, if they're around (and no, for clarification, not all together):
*Cucumber (would have added it to the above salad if I'd had any in the house)
*Hard boiled eggs and raw mushrooms and blue cheese (kind of like a Cobb salad)
*Peppers: roasted or otherwise
*Artichoke hearts
*Basil, arugula or spinach
*Fruit, such as nectarines or pears (a local restaurant had a summer version with melons and peaches and tomatoes and it was heavenly... they are no longer serving lunch. Guess I'll have to make that one myself...)

As I was looking through this blog to see if I'd posted on panzanella previously, I couldn't help but be drawn in by two previous blog posts that mention the salad: one on basil, and one on summer salads. It's official: I'm ready for summer.


  1. that was one of my favorite things last summer, fresh cherry tomatoes off my plants on the balcony, a splash of olive oil and off balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, crusty bits of bread and a bit of parmesan. Heavenly!

  2. Oh heavenly food...that looks like my kind of salad, doesn't it?

    One thing I thought I would get in Paris was asparagus but did not see it on a menu. Saw some white asparagus at the market but that was it. Hmmmm....


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