Dinner Tonight: Spring Vegetable Panzanella

May  3, 2016

Spring leaps pretty ecstatically towards the lusher, easier time of year. But while it's generally a joyful time of year, it's not always an easy one. Everything is changing, freezing and thawing, blooming or refusing to bloom, sunny one day and soggy the next. Everyone's allergies kick in. Sometimes, you're less excited about rhubarb and more attracted to the possibility of a trough of hot oatmeal (to eat or lie down in—your choice).

When that's the sense you're getting, make a panzanella—one that embraces spring vegetables but doesn't scream them (RAMPS! SCAPES!) from the rooftops and that gets comfortingly, wonderfully crisp-mushy after a soak in pesto.

Grocery List: (Organized by area of the market)

  • 1 baguette or small loaf of ciabatta (cut into 1-inch cubes)
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts only, cut crosswise into very thin circles or half-moons, cleaned, and dried
  • 1 bunch asparagus, woody ends snapped off and cut into 1 1/2- to 2-inch pieces
  • 2 1/2 cups English peas (fresh or frozen and thawed)
  • 2 large handfuls snow peas, ends trimmed
  • 1 small bunch basil
  • 1 small bunch mint
  • 3 to 4 sprigs thyme
  • 1 cup small, uneven cubes of Parmesan + 1/4 cup grated Parmesan

We’re assuming you already have olive oil, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, half a lemon, a few eggs, 2 tablespoons of walnuts (or other nuts!), and 1 or 2 cloves garlic. If not, add those to your list!

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The Game Plan:

35 minutes before dinner, prep all your ingredients: Cut your bread into cubes, slice and clean your leeks, trim your asparagus and your snow peas, separate the herb leaves from their stems, and cube and grate the Parmesan.

Set a large pan over medium heat, coat it with olive oil when hot, and then add the bread cubes and a pinch of salt and stir for about 10 minutes, until golden and toasted. While the bread toasts, blitz 1 1/2 cups basil leaves, 1/2 cup mint leaves, thyme leaves, walnuts, garlic, 1/4 cup olive oil, and grated Parmesan in a food processor.

Transfer the bread to a serving bowl, wipe out the pan, and sauté the vegetables in another tablespoon of olive oil: leeks first, stirring until creamy (5 to 7 minutes), then the asparagus (about 3 minutes), then the peas (about 2 minutes). When everything is green and bright, combine the vegetables with the bread and the pesto. Shake in a dash of balsamic vinegar, the juice of half a lemon, freshly ground pepper, and Parmesan cubes.

Let the salad sit while you poach a couple of eggs, one or two per person. Then divvy into bowls, top with eggs, and toast spring.

Read the full recipe here.

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Writing and cooking in Brooklyn.