Spring Panzanella: It's all about the BREAD
A summer panzanella salad is all about the end of summer, ripe tomatoes and basil, or is it?
Maybe it's really just a vehicle for these fantastic, garlicky croutons.
Instead of tomatoes, this version of panzanella salad highlights spring produce, leeks and asparagus.....and the croutons, of course.
WARNING: These croutons are scary, so make a double batch. You will wind up eating them right off the baking sheet, they are that good.
The addition of the white beans makes this a hearty spring dinner, not just a side salad. We ate this as a meal, and it was even better for lunch the next day.
Spring Panzanella (adapted from Smitten Kitchen):
8 slices of stale bread, Italian preferably, crusts removed and cubed
1/4 cup of olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes with the rest of the ingredients.
Lay on a baking sheet and bake at 400F for 15-20 minutes, turning them once or twice in between baking.
1/2 red onion, diced
2 tbsp white wine or white balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
juice of half a lemon
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Make the dressing ahead and let it sit on the counter for a while, so the onion mellows in the vinegar.
bunch of asparagus, woody ends trimmed
4 leeks, white parts only
2 tsp salt
can of white beans, drained (I use Goya small white beans)
Steam asparagus spears for 2 minutes, and shock in ice water to stop the cooking process. Slice into 1" pieces.
Wash leeks well by cutting them in half lengthwise and running them under cold water.
In a 12" skillet, cover leeks with water and add 2 tsp of salt. Simmer the leeks gently for 15 minutes.
The leeks will be slippery wet and hard to cut, so make sure you hold them tightly and use a very sharp knife, or they will slip (a bit of a pain and not the most practical way to slice leeks). Slice into 1" pieces.
Toss the asparagus pieces with the leeks and white beans. Add the dressing and toss all ingredients together gently.
Add the croutons and toss to combine.
You are so right - make a lot of extra croutons. I start to "test" one and before I know it, half (or more) are gone.