Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Spring Panzanella

                                    from Smitten Kitchen

I heart bread. I could eat nothing but bread all day without the slightest bit of angst for fruits or vegetables. And since we all know I harbor resentment against boring lettuce salads, the concept of panzanella (bread salad) BLOWS MY MOTHERF-ING MIND. I mean, a salad of bread: HOW COULD YOU NOT BE TOTALLY SMITTEN WITH THAT IDEA?!?!

So yeah, when I saw Vegan Dad mention this bread salad by Smitten Kitchen on his blog, I was like: Yeah, I'm making this. Immediately.

Plus, I heart leeks. And I heart asparagus. SO HOW COULD YOU POSSIBLY GO WRONG WITH THIS RECIPE??

As I was making this salad, I got to thinking though. And I realized the following:

  1. I think I'm sick of vinegar. Which is like the strangest thing ever. But it may be true.

  2. I am looking forward to cooler weather. I can't wait to shelve the salad recipes, bust out the soup recipes, and start making heavy, warm, love-handle food already.

  3. I think I am prejudiced against yeast. HOW TERRIBLE IS THAT?? Any time I read a bread recipe that calls for yeast, I'm all *muttering under my breath* Fuck that, motherfucker. (Not that this recipe CALLED for yeast, but somehow my brain went there anyways.) AND I'M NOT EVEN 100% SURE WHY! I think it may just be that I automatically KNOW it means kneading something for like 10 minutes, and that IRRITATES me. And yet, something in me really wants to like it. Mostly because it just seems so very Suzy Homemakery, you know?

  4. And now that we're off topic: classism and veganism. That's a topic that I really would like to address on this blog someday soon.

  5. Nutritional yeast: I just keep falling more and more in love. Just when I think I couldn't fall any harder, SLABBAM: right down the stairs.

  6. So did you hear that they're coming out with a new 90210 show?? Not even kidding you.

Anyways, back to the bread salad. Despite my sudden angst over vinegar, I DID like this salad. Mostly because homemade croutons ROCK. I was a little bit flummoxed by the leeks (which Smitten Kitchen DID give a warning about) simply because they didn't stay intact AT ALL while cooking them. They still tasted fine, but they fell all apart. Which makes me think there has to be SOME sort of better way to cook these. But yeah, this recipe isn't anything too complex, but its medley of flavors works well. And also: bread. So it's worth checking out.



  • 1/4 c. olive oil

  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

  • 6 c. day-old bread, crust removed, cubed

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Vinaigrette:

  • Half a red onion, finely diced

  • 2 to 2-1/2 T. champagne or white wine vinegar (or I used 1.5 T. white vinegar + 1 T. white wine)

  • Juice of half a lemon

  • 1/4 c. olive oil

  • 1/2 t. Dijon mustard

  • Salad:

  • 4 large leeks

  • Salt, to taste

  • 1 pound asparagus

  • 1 small can of white beans, rinsed and drained (or 1 1/2 c. cooked white beans)

  • 1/2 T. nutritional yeast (optional)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix the bread cubes with the garlic, olive oil, 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.

Cut off dark green tops of leeks and trim root ends. Halve each leek lengthwise to within 2 inches of root end. Rinse well under cold running water to wash away sand. Cover leeks with cold water in a 12-inch heavy skillet. Add salt and simmer leeks, uncovered, until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Without draining the cooking water (you will reuse it for the asparagus), transfer leeks to a bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking, then pat the leeks dry with paper towels. Break off tough ends of asparagus and cook it in the boiling water until crisp-tender, no more than 3 minutes if they’re pencil-thin, more if your asparagus is thicker. Transfer it to another bowl of ice water, drain and pat it dry.

Cut the leeks and the asparagus each into 1-inch segments–the leeks will be especially slippery and prone to separating; hold firm and use a sharp knife! Place pieces in a large bowl and mix in beans and cooled croutons. Pour vinaigrette over and toss well. Season with salt and pepper. (I also sprinkled about 1/2 T. or so of nutritional yeast over it all--the original recipe calls for parmesan on the croutons, so I wanted to give it a hint of cheesiness without overdoing it.)

(Recipe from Smitten Kitchen)

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