I don’t know why I didn’t jump on the panzanella bandwagon earlier, because it’s really pretty amazing – bread salad. Um Hello??!!! Salad made of bread? Yes please! Those Italians really know how to live life to the fullest. 

Now I need to tell you my embarassing leek story.  I’m pretty sure that it proves a good cook is made and not born.  Back when life was magical (college), I attempted to make leek soup. I’m assuming some sorority party was coming up and I needed to look my best, so I was on a health kick. The soup turned out blue – yes blue, and absolutely disgusting.  I swore off leeks for years, until one day I was watching a cooking show and learned you aren’t supposed to eat the whole thing.  Those thick starchy leaves at the top are supposed to be thrown away. Who knew?!  Now me and leeks are friends again, especially after this delicious salad.

Ingredients:

Serves 4-6

For the Croutons:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups day-old french bread,  cubed
  • 6 TB finely grated Parmesan
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Salad:

  • 4 large leeks
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 1 19-ounce can of white beans, rinsed and drained

For the Vinegarette:

  • One shallot, finely diced
  • 2 to 2 1/2 TB white wine vinegar
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Mix the bread cubes with the garlic, olive oil, parmesan, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Toss to coat well. Transfer bread to a baking sheet and arrange in a single layer.  Bake  until the croutons are crisp and lightly colored on the outside but still soft within, about 10 to 15 minutes, tossing once half way through baking. Set aside and let cool.

3. Mix the shallot 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.

4. Cut off dark green tops of the leeks and trim the root ends. Cut each leek in half lengthwise and rinse well. Place the leeks in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes, until tender. Remove the leeks with tongs (save the water for the asparagus) and transfer to a bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking.

5. Break off tough ends of asparagus and cook it in the boiling water until crisp-tender, about 3-5 minutes depending on the thickness of the asparagus. Transfer the asparagus to a bowl of ice water.

6. Pat the leeks and the asparagus dry, and cut each into one-inch segments. Place the vegetable pieces in a large bowl and add the beans and cooled parmesan croutons. Pour the vinaigrette over the top and toss well.

ENJOY!

Source: Adapted From Smitten Kitchen

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