Every morning I remind myself that spring hasn’t arrived yet. It’s still not spring. I quickly put away all the spring clothes I had bought and grabbed the lined pants and sweaters I had worn over a hundred thousand times. I read about the colorful strawberries at the Paris, San Francisco farmers’ markets. I visit my local market and find the same old cabbage and potatoes. (I’m hoping for ramps this morning) It’s still not spring. It’s not spring yet. I don’t understand why I expect spring to be the first week in April in New York when it never is.
Last weekend, it was unfrozen enough for us to go on a little walk. We ended up at the Balthazar Bakery, where we shared the mildly sweetest and cutest pistachio-filled doughnuts ever. Then, we picked up a small loaf of their “sourish” (their term, not mine) white bread and forgot about it until it staled. On the subway platform, a few days later, I began to plan a spring panzanella recipe that would help me cope with how far away warm weather seemed.
Green beans? Green beans? (Rejected because they are summer produce. Leeks? What is the best way to store leeks? Asparagus! Because we at least have it around here. Meyer lemon vinaigrette? Like I could resist. White beans! I had some leftovers from the cassoulet and couldn’t let my Rancho Gordos waste! Then I stopped driving Alex insane by complaining about the late spring and was excited to make my own.
I hope that helps. It is 50 degrees and raining in New York City right now. For those in different seasons or continents, we have summer manzanillas and Winter Panzanellas.
It’s a bit awkward to cook and slice leeks this way. I love leeks, and this is a great way to use them. You can substitute the slippery guys with extra asparagus, green beans, or lightly cooked carrots if you cannot cut them into segments.
About four servings as a main dish and six servings as a side
1/4 cup olive oil
Two cloves of garlic, finely minced
6 cups of day-old bread with crust removed, cubed
Parmesan cheese, finely grated: 6 tablespoons plus extra for garnish
Black pepper and salt freshly ground
For the vinaigrette,
Finely diced half a red onion
Champagne or white wine vinegar, 2 to 2 1/2 teaspoons
Half a lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Four large leeks
Salt 2 teaspoons
1 Pound Asparagus
One 19-ounce white bean can, rinsed and drained, or 1 1/2 cups of cooked white beans.
Preheat oven to 400degF.
Combine garlic, olive, oil, parmesan cheese, and salt in a large bowl with the bread cubes. Toss well to coat. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the bread and transfer it to a baking tray. Bake, stirring every 10 to 15 mins, until the croutons have a light color on the outside but are still soft inside. Let cool and set aside.
Mix the red onions with the lemon juice and vinegar in a small dish. Set aside a few minutes, then whisk in the other vinaigrette components: the olive oil and Dijon. Set aside.
Trim the root ends and remove the dark green tops. Each leek should be cut in half lengthwise, within 2 inches of the root end. Wash away any sand by rinsing well with cold water. In a heavy 12-inch skillet, cover leeks with cold running water. Add salt to the leeks and cook uncovered for 15-20 minutes.
Transfer the leeks into a bowl with ice and cold water without draining any cooking water. Then, pat them dry using paper towels. Cook asparagus in boiling water for three minutes or longer if it is thicker. Transfer the asparagus to another bowl with ice water and drain it.
The leeks are slippery and will separate easily, so use a sharp knife and hold firmly. Mix the beans with the cooled parmesan bread crumbs in a large bowl. Pour the vinaigrette on top and mix well. Add salt and pepper.