Thursday, May 1, 2008
One of my favorite things to make in the warmer seasons is panzanella. Of course, it was Smitten that turned me on to it. And if you think I get all of my recipes from there...well you'd be close to right. Here are the many reasons you should make panzanella:
1. Quick (30 mins)
2. Full balanced meal of my favorite yummy things in one bowl. (Veggies, beans, cheese and croutons!)
3. Super flexible. You can use whatever you have in the house, and use different cooking methods depending on your whim.
The Smitten link will direct you to many beautiful recipes for panzanella with many beautious pictures so I won't repeat anything here. But I wanted to share some of my favorite cooking techniques.
Do you shave your asparagus? I saw Jaques Pepin do it on his show and tried it and now I refuse to prepare it any other way. (unless they are the thinnest, most delicate spears possible) The spear cooks evenly and there is never any fiborousness to deal with. It seems like a little extra work the first time you do it, but try it- you will be converted!
My new favorite way to cook vegetables is to blanch them. It works perfectly for a springy-summery light salad like this, although you could roast the veggies or grill/broil them or steam or whatever you want I guess. I think I stayed away from blanching for so long because it seemed like a lot of work for such a short amount of cooking time. (Wait for the water to boil AND get a bowl of ice water? Now I have TWO dishes to clean, wah wah wah)
But learn from me kids. That ice water bowl most likely can go in the dishwasher and the results are amazing! Barely cooked veggies that still have their shape and integrity, but the raw edge has been taken off. (LESS GASSY!)Cut them into large pieces and drop them in the boiling water for 2-4 mins, depending on their thickness. (Peppers and asparagus I do for 3)
Making your own fresh croutons. Again, it seems like SO MUCH LABOR. Can't I just get them from a box? No my friends, you can't. (you will be sad if you do)And once you make your own for the first time and realize how easy it is you will kick yourself for ever eating those rock-hard over-salted buggers. Cutting old bread takes all of a minute. Tossing it in a bowl with some olive oil, garlic (through the press for ultimate quickness), salt, pepper and Parmesan if you feel like it takes 2 more. Stick it in the 350 degree oven for 10 mins and you are done. (They can be baking while you are blanching your veggies!)
Put the veggies and croutons in a big bowl along with:
- a can of your favorite whiteish bean (such as garbanzos on the top pic or canellini in the bottom one), drained and rinsed.
- a cheese such as grated parm, cubes of fresh mozzarella, feta or goat cheese
- toss with a homemade vinaigrette (lemon and white wine, balsamic, sherry... whatever you want)