Spring Panzanella

With the arrival of spring, I indulged in another new cookbook on the shelves – Food 52’s Might Salads. I’m trying to lighten up my meals with lots of seasonal vegetables and this book has a variety of new ideas for delicious side and main course salads.

For my friend’s Andrew’s birthday dinner this weekend, I grilled thick NY strip steaks in an herb marinade and paired them with this carb loaded Spring Panzanella salad. It’s a fun twist on the typical summer tomato panzanella – full of seasonal spring snow peas, asparagus leek a delicious herb pesto. It’s a beautiful presentation and a delicious side with a grilled meat. Enjoy!

Food 52’s Spring Panzanella Mighty Salad

  • tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • baguette or 1 small loaf of ciabatta (225 grams), cut into 1-inch cubes (between 3 and 4 cups)
  • teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • leek, white and light green parts only, cut crosswise into very thin circles or half-moons, cleaned, and dried
  • bunch asparagus (340 grams), woody ends snapped off and cut into 1 1/2- to 2-inch pieces
  • 2 1/2 cups (380 grams) English peas, fresh or frozen and thawed
  • large handfuls (220 grams) snow peas, ends trimmed
  • splash (1 to 2 teaspoons) balsamic vinegar
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Pepper, to taste
  • cup small, uneven cubes Parmesan
For the pesto:

  • 1 1/2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
  • 3 to 4 sprigs fresh thyme, stripped
  • tablespoons walnuts
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
  • Salt, to taste
  • You’ll start by preparing the bread. In a large pan, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the bread and 1 teaspoon salt and stir so that all of the cubes are coated in oil. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bread is golden brown and toasty. Transfer to your serving bowl and wipe out the large pan.
  • As the bread toasts, make the pesto. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the herbs, nuts, garlic, and about half of the olive oil. Process until everything is uniformly chopped and you’ve got a green paste. With the motor running, stream in the rest of the olive oil until your paste is thinner, smoother, and paler. Add the Parmesan and pulse until it is incorporated. Taste the pesto and adjust the salt as necessary (you might not need to add salt considering the salt content of the Parmesan).
  • Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in the large pan over medium-low heat. Add the leek and a fat pinch of salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the leek has started to break down and is a creamy mess, 5 to 7 minutes. Be careful not to cook the leek too fast—you want it to disintegrate slowly.
  • Once the leek is cooked, add the asparagus pieces and sauté, stirring frequently, until bright green, 3 to 4 minutes. Next, add the peas and stir until similarly vivid, 2 to 3 more minutes. Taste your vegetables to make sure they’re still peppy but not raw.
  • Dump the vegetables from the pan onto the toasty bread cubes. Add the snow peas and the pesto. (I added all of the pesto and found it to be the perfect amount, but add half, mix it all up, and see where you are—that’s less risky.) Add the balsamic, lemon juice, pepper, and Parmesan and mix well so that all of the bread and all of the vegetables are shiny with pesto.
  • Scoop the panzanella into bowls. Eat!

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