Spring Panzanella

Recipe courtesy Michael Chiarello, 2007
Show: Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello Episode: Not Your Mother's Baby Shower
TOTAL TIME: 30 min
Prep: 10 min
Inactive Prep: --
Cook: 20 min
YIELD: 10 servings
LEVEL: Easy

ingredients

PANZANELLA CROUTONS:
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 12 cups crust-free cubed day-old bread (1/2-inch cubes)
  • 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
  • 2 pound medium asparagus
  • 1/2 cup freshly chopped basil leaves
  • 8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Sea salt, preferably gray salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Panzanella Croutons, recipe follows
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen English peas, boiled until tender and drained
  • 1 cup thinly sliced green onion or spring onion
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 1/2 head radicchio, ribbon-cut, soaked, drained, and dried
  • 2 cup whole baby spinach leaves or arugula
  • Wedge ricotta salata cheese
    • PANZANELLA CROUTONS:
      • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
      • 12 cups crust-free cubed day-old bread (1/2-inch cubes)
      • 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
      • Yield: 4 to 4 1/2 cups
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          Directions

          Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

          Melt the butter in a large skillet over moderate heat and cook until it foams. Add the bread cubes and toss to coat with the butter. Transfer the bread to a baking sheet. Immediately sprinkle with the cheese and toss again while warm to melt the cheese.

          Bake, stirring once or twice, until the croutons are crisp and lightly colored on the outside but still soft within, about 10 to12 minutes. Let cool. Store in an airtight
          container.

          Michael's Notes: I use a serrated knife to remove the crust from day-old bread, then switch to a chef's knife to cut the cubes because it doesn't tear the bread. Also note that I recommend grating the Parmesan finely so that it will stick to the bread better.

          Holding an asparagus spear in both hands, bend the spear until it breaks naturally at the point where the spear becomes tough. Discard the tough end. Repeat with the remaining asparagus. Cut off the tender tips and reserve.

          Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the asparagus tips and cook briefly, just until they lose their raw taste. Lift them out with a sieve or skimmer and let cool. Add the remaining portion of the asparagus spears and cook until tender enough to puree, then drain well.

          Put the asparagus spears basil, 6 tablespoons of the olive oil, and salt and pepper, to taste, in a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth.

          In a large bowl, combine the croutons, asparagus tips, peas, and green or spring onion. Add some of the asparagus puree and toss to coat well. Add more puree as needed to coat lightly and evenly. Add 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice and toss again. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then make an even layer of the mixture on a platter.

          In another bowl, combine the radicchio and spinach or arugula. Dress with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, the remaining 1 teaspoon lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss well, then mound on top of the dressed croutons. With a cheese plane or vegetable peeler, shave some ricotta salata over the top. Serve immediately.

          Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

          Melt the butter in a large skillet over moderate heat and cook until it foams. Add the bread cubes and toss to coat with the butter. Transfer the bread to a baking sheet. Immediately sprinkle with the cheese and toss again while warm to melt the cheese.
          Bake, stirring once or twice, until the croutons are crisp and lightly colored on the outside but still soft within, about 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool. Store in an airtight container.

          Michael's Notes: I use a serrated knife to remove the crust from day-old bread, and then switch to a chef's knife to cut the cubes because it doesn't tear the bread. Also note that I recommend grating the Parmesan finely so that it will stick to the bread better.
          Yield: 4 to 4 1/2 cups

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