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earliest spring panzanella + green stuff


Bold claim: classic panzanella is my favourite salad ever. Juicy summer tomatoes, pungent vinaigrette, tons of fresh basil, heavy pinches of salt and the bread, oh man the bread. Little toasted cubes slightly softened by all the luscious tomato juice and that sharp dressing. Too good. I could eat an 8-serving bowl all by myself. It’s not just the flavour/texture aspects that really get me either…

The dish itself represents the kind of food that I love to make/eat and the philosophy behind it. The bread is cubed and toasted up because it’s leftover from yesterday and I am so not about throwing away something that requires such skill to craft.  There’s too many tomatoes and heaps of herbs in the garden that need to be ate because of all the hard, dirty work that was put into their raising. We have shallots, cold pressed virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar in the pantry always because we’re just cool like that… I’m thoroughly convinced that this is a lifestyle thing. Once you’re there, it’s a taste revelation wrapped up in easy rusticism. I wish you could all just come over, rummage in the garden, make it with me in a sunny kitchen, drink some crisp rosé, laugh, catch up and eat outside on a big blanket in the cool grass before the day turns to night. That is some certified, undeniably good living.

But it’s March! I can’t even talk about tomatoes (although our seedlings are coming along nicely) or eating outside yet. Despite the crazy summer-in-spring temperatures we’re having (twenties!), there’s limited local produce available. So I took the aspects of panzanella that I loved and applied them to what I can work with now. The softening of croutons from vinaigrette and vegetal juiciness is the big “whoa” in this salad, which is easy enough to achieve with the help of some extra vinaigrette. I roasted leeks, apples, fennel and radishes to add substance. Chives, sunflower sprouts, shallots, and parsley  fill out the rest. The sprouts addition was out of a sheer need for green stuff. My local grocer is now selling amazingly fresh, still potted sprouts. The tangled little shoots and confetti of herbs on a heap of heavy, winter vegetables is perfect. Winter and spring. Transitional side dish extraordinaire. Lots going on, but it all works out in the end.


roasted vegetable panzanella for early spring
serves:
4-5
notes: Use whatever sprouts/shoots you have access to/preference for. After tossing all of the ingredients together, I would allow the salad to sit for 15 minutes so that the flavours marry and the croutons can soften up a tiny bit.

salad:
1 large leek, white and light green part only
1 small fennel bulb
8-10 radishes, trimmed and cut into quarters
1 large apple, cored and diced
2 cups bread cubes (3-4 slices of bread)
1/4 cup-ish grapeseed oil, divided
5 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
large handful of sprouts (sunflower sprouts and pea shoots are my favourites)
10 blades of chives, minced
5 sprigs of parsley, chopped fine
salt and pepper

dressing:
1 small shallot, minced
2 tsp grainy mustard
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tbsp maple syrup (or honey, agave etc)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup grapeseed oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line one baking sheet with parchment and set aside along with a ceramic/glass baking dish.

Cut the leek in half lengthwise. Clean thoroughly, removing any grit in between the layers. Slice halves on the diagonal into 1/2 inch pieces. Place in a large bowl.

Trim tops from the fennel bulb (save these for stock). Cut bulb in half from the cut side down through to the base. Remove core and tough outer layer. Cut halves into lengthwise slices. Place in the same bowl as the leeks. Toss these vegetables with half of the thyme leaves, half of the grapeseed oil (2 tbsp), salt and pepper. Dump vegetables into ceramic/glass baking dish. Set aside.

In the same bowl, toss diced apples and radishes with remaining thyme, 1 tbsp of the oil, salt and pepper. Dump these onto the parchment lined baking sheet.

Place all vegetables into the oven on the same shelf and roast. The leeks/fennel will require a mid-way flipping to achieve even browning.  The apples/radishes will take about 15 minutes, while the leeks/fennel will take 20-25 minutes. When vegetables are softened and coloured a bit, remove them from the oven and allow to cool.

Line another baking sheet with parchment. Toss the bread cubes with the remaining oil, salt and pepper. Dump onto the baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Remove and set aside.

Make the dressing: in a medium bowl, whisk together the shallots, vinegar, lemon juice, maple syrup, salt and pepper. Add the oil slowly, whisking quickly to combine the dressing. Set aside.

Combine the cooled roasted vegetables, dressing, chopped chives, parsley and half of the sprouts in a large bowl. Toss to combine. Garnish finished plate with remaining sprouts. Serve.

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Fi Figueroa26/03/2012 - 1:54 pm

I’ve never had this before! It looks beyond flavorful and I can’t wait to try this out.

Thanks for sharing!
-Fi

Michelle26/03/2012 - 1:58 pm

Oh wow, Laura. This looks fantastic. So springy and lovely! Definitely going to be making some panzanella soon.

Kate26/03/2012 - 5:23 pm

I do love a good panzanella salad, and believe that the bread, really, is the best part about it. The whole mess of it, freshly tossed on a hot August day with tomatoes that are almost boiling from the sun is impossible to mimic any other time of year no matter how hard one tries. I’ve one-upped the Panzanella ante by adding a great deal of roasted zucchini and eggplant, changed up the appearance with colored tomatoes, shaved fat summer radishes over the top and crumbles of goat cheese, but I have never made one without tomato. Never even gave it a thought.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go to the store for some root vegetables.

Margarita26/03/2012 - 6:24 pm

I’ve never had leeks, fennel, and grapeseed oil before… I always learn something new here! Loving this salad… by the looks of it, I know it is delicious!

Jeanine26/03/2012 - 7:41 pm

This is the prettiest thing I’ve seen all day. I love panzanella and I love your variation on it! I’m just starting a garden for the first time… I think I was born with a black thumb, but here goes :)

Evi26/03/2012 - 9:53 pm

I don’t like throwing the bread out either! If I don’t have something to make with it, I at least food process it and make bread crumbs- they’ll be used!

Cookie + Kate26/03/2012 - 10:20 pm

Truth: I’ve never tried panzanella, but your lovely post is just the motivation I needed to give it a try. Your spring version looks wonderful, and I really appreciate the philosophy behind the recipe. There’s nothing better than feasting on a giant bowl of salad. Happy belly!

Adrienne @ How to Ice a Cake26/03/2012 - 11:32 pm

I am totally on board with this. I’m a panzanella fiend!

Sarah27/03/2012 - 2:26 am

This salad looks delicious! Thanks for the recipe.

Caitlin27/03/2012 - 11:06 am

this salad looks so lovely and delicious. i love spring salads!

Rachel @ Bakerita27/03/2012 - 4:41 pm

I love a good panzanella. This looks like the perfect use for the spring veggies that are popping up. Yum!

Kelsey27/03/2012 - 11:50 pm

LOVE a good panzanella. Cheers to Panzanella in every season, but especially spring (in my opinion). You had me at fennel. I’m kinda addicted.

Oh and… Kate!! How on EARTH have you never had/made Panzanella?! Make this one, immediately!

Eileen28/03/2012 - 12:16 am

That looks like one amazing salad! I love the combination of roasted radishes with fennel and apple.

Koko28/03/2012 - 11:35 am

This really is the first panzanella that I have seen this season. It looks absolutely stunning….I adore the fresh ingredients you used. I happen to love panzanella, too…and this recipe looks like it provides the perfect twist to change it up!!

Maria04/04/2012 - 11:29 am

Love this salad!

[...] adapted from The First Mess [...]

alison05/04/2012 - 11:45 am

This looks like the most beautiful spring dish. I love a good panzanella, cannot wait to try this.

Kate King07/04/2012 - 7:39 pm

I’m anxiously awaiting for when we can transplant our little seedlings as well and have a garden for the first time… then i will take on my own version of this yummy looking panzanella/greens. Pure rustic and purely simple – awesome.

[...] when I made a fresh and spring-y panzanella and I told you about my sheer and ridiculous-silly love for the classic, summertime version? Well, [...]

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