Thursday, May 26, 2011

Asparagus Panzanella

Springtime around my area brings out foragers for asparagus.  You can see the foragers stopped on the side of the road with bags in hands bending over to harvest asparagus.

My husband and my 10-year old,Talley, enjoy foraging for asparagus.  These are pictures that my husband took last year.  We forage in a field; no, we don't go where we aren't wanted. 

With the abundance of asparagus we have, I am always thinking of ways to incorporate asparagus into our menu.

I came up with this simple recipe for Asparagus Panzanella and added a bit of bacon in to ramp up the dish.  Panzanella is basically an Italian bread salad with vegetables splashed with olive oil and vinegar; the various possibilities are endless.

Asparagus Panzanella

1/3 cup virgin olive oil -- good quality
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons garlic, finely minced
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt - First add 1/2 teaspoon and then adjust right before serving
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 good-sized tomatoes, sliced into small bites -- I used tomatoes on the vine.
1 pound asparagus cooked and then cut into bite-sized pieces -- do not over cook
1/3 cup flat-leaf Italian parsley -- diced.
1 large cucumber, cut in small pieces
1/2 cup sliced red onion, thinly sliced or 1/2 cup sliced green onions; I used green because the red onion I had was way too hot.
6  cups good quality artisan bread -- cubed and baked (see instructions in directions) 
10 strips bacon,  cooked well and then sliced into small pieces

1. Heat oven to 400ºF. Line a jelly-roll pan with foil. Arrange bread cubes in a single layer on pan. Toast in oven 10 to 12 minutes, tossing once, until evenly browned.

2. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, add oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper, and tomatoes in a large bowl. Let stand at room temperature at least 30 minutes or until tomatoes release their juices. Toss occasionally. This is an important step. I love how the flavors blend and everything smells so good.

3. Then add asparagus, parsley, cucumbers, and onions to tomato mixture.   Let stand at least 15 minutes for flavors to blend. Just before serving, add bread cubes and bacon; toss to blend thoroughly.

This is actually a very simple salad, but I wanted to add some notes so that you would be satisfied with your panzanella.
  • You need to use good quality artisan bread and good quality olive oil -- squishy french bread sold near the registers won't do.  A grocery store near me clearances day old La Brea Artisan Breads; the day old bread works perfectly for Panzanella.
  • Do not overcook the asparagus; mushy asparagus won't taste good.  After cooking the asparagus, you can place it in an ice bath to immediately stop the cooking process and then cut into bite-sized pieces upon cooling.  I grilled the asparagus for this Panzanella. 
  • If using red onions, make sure you taste them before you add them; if they are hot, do NOT use them.  I love the color that red onions add to the salad, but a hot onion will wreck the salad.
  • Serve right away so that the bread cubes are still somewhat crusty.
  • Shoud you salad be a bit dry, add a bit more olive oil and vinegar.

Linked with the following parties:  Tuesday Night Supper Club, Wow Us Wednesdays


La said...

Hi Joni!

This recipe sounds and looks delicious! Don't you wish you could sample all the yummy recipes floating around Blogland?

You can place your sliced red onion in cold water for a few moments and it will tame the heat. I love the flavor of red onions, but often they are too strong without soaking.

Happy Memorial Day! La said...

How ingenious mixing two great things, asparagus and panzanella! I love asparagus. In fact, I so need to make some asparagus soup. I wish that I could just find it growing around here! Lucky you!

Lynn said...

This looks great Joni! I can't believe asparagus just grows wild like that! The only thing popping up around here are weeds:@) I did copy the sugar cookie recipe, I'll try that the next time, thanks!

Linda (More Fun Less Laundry) said...

Hi Joni, Your sister tells us that today is your birthday! Happy, happy birthday to you! Your asparagus looks great. I might even get my hubby to eat it this way. Enjoy your special day! Linda

Nancy's Daily Dish said...

Hi Joni,

I had to get this recipe as soon as I saw its name. We love asparagus but always seem to use it the same way almost every time we eat it. I love it grilled. This looks and sounds so good! Foraging for the asparagus must be fun! Thanks for this wonderful looking and sounding recipe,


SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

I remember foraging for asparagus with my mother when I was a little girl. How lucky you are to have an abundance of it to find.

BTW, Happy Belated Birthday :)

Barbara F. said...

I can't even imagine foraging for asparagus around here! Maybe upstate NY or NJ. Sounds delicious. xo,

Jacqueline said...

How fun! I can't imagine we have any here growing wild but I never thought to look. This sounds great in the salad. We love both Panzanella and asparagus.

Sue said...

This recipe sounds so delicious Joni! Such a hearty salad. Hey, I want to forage for asparagus too! :)

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness! Foraging for asparagus?! Wonderful. Mister LOVES asparagus. He'd be in heaven.
Thank you for your kind comments. I really appreciated them.

janice15 said...

Wow asparagus plants...I just bought two for my that what they look at lol...I just bought the plants for 99 cents..they wanted to get rid of them I guess...I don't know anything about them or even if they will grow here in San Francisco..What can you tell about them plz..I'm a new blogger @ Witherspoon Janice..thanks for sharing. Have a great day...

Jenny said...

I love panzanella. This looks delicious!

Maryjane-The Beehive Cottage said...

Wow, I am impressed! Thanks for the recipe!

Poppy @ With a Dash of Color said...

Oh my, I never seen a field of asparagus... this is so awesome! Thanks for sharing with us..the salad looks deelish!!perfect for a summer day.Have a nice day!~Poppy

Charlene said...

YUM! I adore asparagus! And this looks divine! Thanks for sharing I am going to try it. It has been so HOT I need cool things to serve. Have a great weekend!