Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Spring Panzanella

So I have been feeling more than mildly interested in Heidi101's new book (fickle, I know), but worried that after reading it I'd just want to magically transport my family to her SF neighborhood where we would grow millet pods and farro trees and demararra sugarbushes and I can be the whole new me who is always patient with my children...

Anyway, Grg made a good series of suggestions
1) Don't buy the book when you know where to get the recipes for free.
2) If I really want to make her food, then make her food, then decide whether I'm going to...
3) check it out of the library or not.

Great advice, Grg. So here we go! Three 101 recipes on the menu for the week. The first one is this panzanella and it was wonderful. I forgot to add the basil at the end and it was still wonderful. I made a giant heap of it and was literally passing bowls of it to neighbors who were enjoying their porches last evening on my block.

I made one addition because we were going to eat it for dinner and we were going to need more protein. I added cubes of baked tofu. I drained two blocks of extra firm, cut into 1/2" cubes, arranged in one layer in a pyrex casserole, splashed everything with just a little tamari (go with me on this - it did not add an incongruous asian flavor; it just tasted like cheese. Ask my adorable 5 year old neighbor who liked it! Hooray!), baked for 30 min at 350 after the bread cubes came out. Easy.

The flavors of the naked peas and asparagus with the thyme, shallot and garlic on the bread cubes was awesome. I cooked while listening to this and the harmonies took the top of my head off. Who knew there was a current day college-age girl group sensation reminiscent of this amazingness, which I love beyond all else? Sign me up. I will wear that hat if I get to sing with these ladies. Make the bread salad and sing like a Bulgarian lady. You will be happy.


The bread I used also had walnuts and dried cranberries in it, but I think I'd prefer a seeded whole wheat version. Use whatever you like.

1 lb loaf of hearty, day-old, whole wheat bread into 1-inch cubes
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme - just pluck leaves from the sprig
a couple pinches of salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch asparagus, cut into segments
2 cups peas, fresh or frozen
4 handfuls spinach
1/4 cup small basil leaves

In a large bowl toss the bread with the garlic, shallot, thyme, salt and olive oil. Turn the bread out onto a baking sheet and toast in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes - or until they are nice and golden and crunchy.

In a cold skillet pour in a splash of olive oil, a splash of water, and a couple pinches of salt. Dial up the heat and when the water starts to bubble stir in the asparagus. Cover, wait about twenty seconds, now add the peas. Cover, wait a few seconds, now add the spinach. Cover and cook just a few more seconds until the spinach starts to collapse just a bit.

Put the bread crumbs in a large bowl. Now pour the asparagus and peas and all the pan juices over the top of the bread.

Give it a good toss, add the basil leaves and toss again. Serve the salad family-style on a big platter.

Makes about 6 - 8 servings.


gwen said...

Yummo. I am very interested in this magical way you have of making tofu taste like cheese? Please elaborate?

hefk said...

A couple theories for the faux cheese effect this time:
1) Maybe it's the Trader Joe brand of extra firm style tofu; it's really dense and heavy to begin with.
2) I drain it for a good hour, each brick wrapped in paper towels (you could use dishtowels but sometimes I can smell the detergent and that's weird.)
3) Baking (30 min at 350) takes even more moisture out and makes a nice texture and the soy adds a salty/savory flavor so it came out much like paneer.
Yummo indeed.