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Today: Comfort food for early summer weather.
There are some unspoken connotations for comfort food: Something warm, to be lingered over, the edible equivalent of a hug. Gooeyness and high carb-count are added bonuses. But what happens to comfort food when it's warm outside, and you have five fans running on high? Ice cream is a wonderful choice, but you need dinner. And dinner tonight is a springy, bready vegetable panzanella with poached eggs, followed by delicate lemony lace cookies—buttery and crunchy enough to satisfy any cravings, without making you break a sweat.
(Organized by the area of the market)
Serves 4 to 6 (or 2, with leftovers for tomorrow night)
1 baguette or 1 small loaf of ciabatta (225 grams)
1 leek, white and light green parts only
1 bunch asparagus (340 grams)
2 1/2 cups (380 grams) English peas, fresh or frozen and thawed
2 large handfuls (220 grams) snow peas
1 1/2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
3 to 4 sprigs fresh thyme
Juice of half a lemon
Zest from one lemon
1 or 2 cloves garlic
1 1/4 cup small, uneven cubes Parmesan
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
Eggs, 1 or 2 per person, for poaching (optional)
2 tablespoons walnuts
1/2 cup raw ground almonds
1/3 cup organic unrefined sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose wheat flour
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
We are assuming you already have olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pepper, and sea salt. If not, add those to your list, too!
About 40 minutes before dinner, preheat the oven and get a baking sheet ready. In a saucepan, stir together the butter, sugar, and corn syrup until the mixture boils. Remove from heat and add flour, salt, ground almonds, lemon zest and vanilla extract, mixing until the batter comes together. Spoon it in teaspoons onto your baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, rotating once halfway through for even baking.
While the cookies are in the oven, While the cookies bake, make croutons out of the bread over the stove. By the time you remove your cookies to cool them on wire racks, the croutons should be done as well.
Thirty minutes before serving, combine the herbs, nuts, garlic, and olive oil in the food processor for the pesto. Cook your leeks down into a creamy mess, then add the asparagus, sautéing until it's bright green. Add the peas and cook for another few minutes, but don't overcook—they should all stay peppy and green. With 10 minutes to go, combine the vegetables, pesto, toasted bread, balsamic, lemon juice, and Parmesan and mix. Let it sit and loosen up while you poach a few eggs. Scoop the panzanella into bowls, top with an egg or two, and enjoy!
Photos by James Ransom and Mark Weinberg