To make this, you don't have to plug your ears and beeline to the market for the last ramps and the first garlic scapes. You don't have to ask your friends to be quiet so you can concentrate on the preparation. When you sit down to eat, you might be hushed for a few minutes, enjoying the greenness you never thought would come again, but you will resume conversation. You will have time to ask your dinner companions what they think, to make a list of things you're grateful for, to think and read about things other than peas.
But if you don't want to—if you want to take a break, just for a minute—add a poached egg, slice it open, and let the lemon-yellow yolk remind you that there is comfort food even when comfort food is out of season. —Sarah Jampel
- Serves 4 to 6
- For the panzanella:
extra-virgin olive oil, divided
baguette or 1 small loaf of ciabatta (225 grams), cut into 1-inch cubes (between 3 and 4 cups)
salt, plus more to taste
leek, white and light green parts only, cut crosswise into very thin circles or half-moons, cleaned, and dried
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
(1 to 2 teaspoons) balsamic vinegar
Juice of half a lemon
Pepper, to taste
small, uneven cubes Parmesan
Eggs, 1 or 2 per person, for poaching (optional)
- For the pesto:
1 1/2 cups
loosely packed fresh basil leaves
loosely packed fresh mint leaves
3 to 4 sprigs
fresh thyme, stripped
1 or 2
cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
extra-virgin olive oil
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).
- If you're worried about the pesto browning, transfer it to an airtight container. Otherwise, proceed with the recipe.
- 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.
- Give your panzanella some time to relax and loosen up as you poach the eggs, 1 or 2 per person. I use Heidi Swanson's technique, described here: http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/poached-eggs-over-rice-recipe.html.
- Scoop the panzanella into bowls and gingerly position a poached egg (or 2) over each bowl. Eat!