A few weeks ago I shared Nick’s newly discovered fondness of satiating salads. Since then I’ve made it my mission to maintain his predilection towards my favorite kind of meal. We’ve all heard that “variety is the spice of life” so my attempts at keeping his tastebuds titillated have resulted in some “motley crews” of beans, greens, veggies, fruits, and grains. One such medley was a recreation of a “17 Vegetable Salad” that I recently devoured while out to dinner in D.C. (I highly recommend Founding Farmers if ever in the area) 17 veggies…. if there is a such thing as a healthy hypnosis I’ve experienced it! In typical Martha fashion I’ve scoured the blogger-verse for creative stimulation. But to find inspiration for this week’s salad it took no more than 3 steps inside the sparkly doors of Whole Foods to make my discovery. The seasonal produce display held all the answers (which a quick search on my FoodGawker app confirmed!) and so was born an Early Spring Panzanella.
This was my first attempt at a panzanella which is a Florentine inspired salad traditionally containing vine ripened tomatoes and hearty chunks of bread. In my (Italian rooted) opinion there is no better accompaniment to salad than a hunk of crusty bread which is perfectly designed to sop up the mouthwatering juices. So why I have not indulged in this ingenious salad varietal before I do not know. But, I will undoubtedly be relishing in its deliciousness again (and again!) The unexpected star of this dish was the sweet pea sprouts. I tend to gravitate towards “leafier” greens for my salad, but these pretty little “twigs” (as Nick adoringly described them) were not only tantalizing to the eyes, but the tastebuds as well. I am sensing some stir fry, wrap, and side dishes featuring these divinely sweet shoots in our future. The salad was rounded out by an early spring bounty of leeks, fennel, and radishes and adorned with a potpourri of fresh thyme, parsley, and chives. If the heralding of spring, in all its pastel budding, sunshine spraying, and soul lifting glory, could be contained in a bowl this panzanella may just be it.
Early Spring Panzanella
adapted from The First Mess
- 1 large leek, white and light green parts only, thoroughly cleaned and thinly cut into half moon slices
- 1 small fennel bulb, tops and core removed, sliced lengthwise
- 8-10 radishes, trimmed and cut into quarters
- 1 large apple, cored and diced
- 3-4 slices tuscan pane (or crusty bread of choice), torn into bite-size chunks
- 1/4 cup grapeseed oil, divided
- 5 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
- 3.5 oz. sweet pea sprouts
- large handful of baby spinach leaves
- 10 blades of chives, minced
- 5 sprigs of parsley, finely chopped
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 shallot, minced
- 1/2 TBSP whole grain mustard
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
- 1 TBSP agave nectar (or honey)
- salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with foil and set aside along with a ceramic/glass baking dish.
Combine leeks and fennel in a large bowl. Toss these vegetables with half of the thyme leaves, 2 TBSP grapeseed oil, salt and pepper. Pour into the ceramic/glass baking dish and set aside.
In the same bowl, toss diced apples and radishes with remaining thyme, 1 TBSP of oil, salt and pepper. Pour these onto one of the foil lined baking sheet.
Place all vegetables into the oven on the same shelf and roast. The leeks/fennel will take approximately 20 minutes while the apples/radishes will take about 15 minutes. Toss vegetables halfway through for even browning. When vegetables are softened and slightly browned, remove them from the oven and allow to cool.
While vegetables are roasting, toss bread cubes with the remaining 1 TBPS oil, salt and pepper. Pour onto the other baking sheet. When vegetables are done, toast the bread in the oven for 10 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Remove and set aside.
To make the dressing whisk together the shallots, vinegar, lemon juice, agave, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Slowly add the oil, whisking quickly to combine the dressing. Set aside.
Combine the cooled roasted vegetables, bread, sprouts, spinach, chives and parsley in a large bowl. Drizzle with 1/2-3/4 of the dressing. Toss to combine and allow the salad to sit for at least 15 minutes to allow flavors to soak in. Adjust dressing and seasonings to taste!