June 15, 2010
...Is How You Say Bread Salad
It's Murphy's Law, when I've been eying a recipe for weeks on end, that when I finally work it into the dinner repertoire there must be at least one key ingredient that proves difficult to find. This time, it was asparagus. For weeks there has been asparagus everywhere. It was always on sale, overflowing from it's displays in the market, tricking me into thinking it'd be there for me when I needed it. So why when I go to answer it's siren's call does it leave me scrambling, woefully unfulfilled? Last week asparagus was no where to be found, at least not at my usual grocery haunts, and then there was Trader Joes, laughingly selling asparagus in 12 oz. packages when they know I need a full pound. Murphy's Law, you are so inconvenient! Sure, I'll julienne a bunch of vegetables by hand and opt to make a lot of food from scratch, I don't mind the extra time there, but I really don't like driving around taking tours of 4 different grocery stores in one day. However, for dinner's sake, I did, and eventually found the asparagus - at the last stop, for a ridiculous price. Moving on.
Asparagus debacle aside, this panzanella comes together without a hitch. Making the croutons is nothing more than tossing cubes of bread with some olive oil and seasonings - I like to mix it up with my hands, for funsies - and crisping them up in the oven. Open a can of white beans, drain and rinse it. Chop up half an onion. Quickly cook some asparagus, cut it up. Measure a few more ingredients into a bowl for the vinaigrette, then toss everything together - again with your hands if you so desire, but you know, with clean hands, obviously. No special skills, no special equipment (well...I did use a microplane for the parmesan, though I'd argue this is a kitchen must-have). After all that hand tossing of ingredients, you might want to serve the panzanella with a spoon; people get a little weirded out if you use your hands at the dinner table.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
I would encourage you to click over and check out Deb's original recipe. The addition of the leeks would be really nice, it's just that I got all flustered at the store when there was no asparagus and forgot to grab the leeks in the process. Or if you're not a fan, it works without too. I also upped the dijon mustard in the vinaigrette by a touch because I'm a big fan the flavor.
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 cups day-old bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Half a red onion, finely diced
2 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 pound asparagus
1 15-ounce can of white beans, rinsed and drained
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Mix the bread cubes with the garlic, olive oil, parmesan, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Toss to coat well. Transfer bread to a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake stirring once or twice, until the croutons are crisp and lightly colored on the outside but still soft within, about 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside and let cool.
Mix the red onion with the vinegar and lemon juice in a small bowl and set aside for a few minutes before whisking in the remaining vinaigrette ingredients: olive oil and dijon. Set aside.
Bring a small pan of salted water to a boil. Break off tough ends of asparagus and cook it in the boiling water until crisp-tender, no more than three minutes if they’re pencil-thin, more if your asparagus is thicker. Transfer it to a bowl of ice water, drain and pat it dry.
Cut the the asparagus each into one-inch segments. Place pieces in a large bowl and mix in beans and cooled parmesan croutons. Pour vinaigrette over and toss well. Season with salt and pepper.