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Now reading Spring Vegetable Panzanella

Spring Vegetable Panzanella

Toasted bread + herby sauce + vegetables of all sorts + cheese + egg topper.

Panzanella doesn’t have to be exclusively a platform for tomatoes; when you’re stuck in spring, and impatient, it can be about the greens that peep up just in time to save you from winter’s stupor. To replace the moisture that typically comes from the tomatoes, here’s a garlicky three-herb pesto. It cozies the hunks of bread, crumbles of Parm, and crew of vegetables that have relaxed into buttery sautéed leeks. (Full disclosure: This salad is nearly half bread.)

Ingredients

Serves 4–6
  • 1/4 C (60ml) extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1 baguette or small loaf ciabatta, cut into 1-inch (2.5cm) cubes (3 or 4 C) 
  • + Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts, cleaned and cut into very thin circles 
  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch (5cm) pieces 
  • 2 1/2 C (350g) English peas, fresh or frozen
  • 2 large handfuls snow peas, trimmed 
  • 2 t balsamic vinegar, or to taste 
  • + juice of 1/2 lemon 
  • 6 oz (170g) Parmesan, finely chopped or crumbled 
  • 4–6 eggs (optional, for on top) 

Pesto Dressing 

  • 1 1/2 C (30g) loosely packed fresh basil leaves 
  • 1/2 C (25g) loosely packed fresh mint leaves
  • 4 thyme sprigs 
  • 2 T walnuts 
  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves 
  • 1/4 C (60ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 C (25g) finely grated Parmesan
  • + kosher salt (optional) 

Preparation

  1. . In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the bread cubes and 1 teaspoon salt and stir until the cubes are evenly coated. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl and wipe out the pan.

  2. To make the pesto, in the bowl of a food processor, process the basil, mint, leaves from the thyme sprigs, walnuts, garlic, and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil until a paste forms. With the processor running, gradually pour in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and process until the paste is thinner, smoother, and paler. Add the grated Parmesan and pulse until just incorporated. Taste and adjust the seasoning; if you’re worried about the pesto browning, transfer it to an airtight container.

  3. In the same skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil 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, 5–7 minutes. Be careful not to cook the leek too quickly—you want it to slowly disintegrate.

  4. Add the asparagus and sauté, stirring frequently, until bright green, 3–4 minutes. Add the English peas and snow peas and cook, still stirring, until similarly vivid, 2–3 minutes more (you don’t have to cook the snow peas if they’re lively raw). Taste to make sure they’re still peppy but not raw.

  5. Dump the vegetables onto the bread. Add half of the pesto, the vinegar, lemon juice, and Parmesan; season with pepper; and toss together until everything is shiny with pesto. Add more pesto if necessary. Let the panzanella mingle while you poach the eggs.

  6. Scoop the panzanella into bowls and gingerly position a poached egg atop each bowl if you like. Serve immediately.