Friday, May 21, 2010

Spring Panzanella

Ah, Spring in Chicago. Tulips bloom on Michigan Ave and gardens burst with pansies. Gray, rainy skies remind us that winter just passed, and deceptively sunny days marked with absurdly cool temperatures hint of approaching warm weather.

Yes, this post is really just an excuse to share pretty pictures from a lovely walk around downtown on one of those sunshine-filled-but-ridiculously-cold days. Thanks, S, for a fun-filled day!

With Summer just around the corner, I wanted to create a dish to pay homage to the delicate flavors of Spring: asparagus, peas, and spring onions. Since I love, love, love heirloom tomato panzanella in the Summer, what could be more suitable than Spring panzanella?

I was so excited to find purple asparagus. It is slightly sweeter than the green variety and turns dark green when cooked. What a delicious treat!

I tossed purple asparagus, baby spinach, peas, and spring onions with a bright lemon vinaigrette, basil, and garlicky parmesan croutons. I used frozen peas instead of fresh (shame on me) and it worked fine, but I think fava beans would also be lovely in this dish. I initially thought to use meyer lemons for the vinaigrette but opted for the more acidic regular lemon to balance the sweetness of the purple asparagus.

Spring Panzanella
1/2 lb asparagus, tough ends broken off, cut into 1.5" pieces leaving tips 2" long
1/2 cup peas, frozen or fresh
1/2 cup fresh baby spinach
20 basil leaves, chiffonade (stack leaves, roll tightly lengthwise, and cut into thin slices)
2 spring or green onions, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic, finely minced
2 cups of day old country bread or other rustic bread, cut into 1/2" cubes
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp parmigiano reggiano, finely grated
sea salt
freshly ground pepper

1/2 lemon, juiced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
sea salt
freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Over medium heat, melt butter in a large sauté pan until it foams. Add garlic. Toss in bread cubes. Remove pan from heat. Season generously with salt and pepper. Toss with finely grated parmesan cheese. Coarsely grated cheese may not stick to the croutons as well. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes until golden.

Meanwhile, bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add asparagus, cook for 3 minutes until crisp tender. Remove asparagus with a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl with ice and cold water. Drain and set aside. Leave pot of water boiling on stove.

Add peas to the boiling water, cook for 3 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside. Drain some of the boiling water. Add spinach, toss in boiling water for 1 minute until just wilted. Drain and set aside to cool. Remove pot of water from heat.

In a large bowl, combine lemon juice and white wine vinegar and slowly whisk in olive oil. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Add spring onions, croutons, and asparagus to the bowl. Toss to combine well.

Add cooled peas and spinach to the bowl. Mix to combine. Season with freshly ground black pepper and adjust salt if needed. Toss with basil.

Serves 2.

1 comment:

  1. AnonymousMay 24, 2010

    those croutons look incredible!


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