Spring Panzanella Salad with Leeks & Asparagus

This salad is genius. That's all there is to it. Except, wait. WHAT IS WITH THIS WEATHER?! marchpanzanellas_17marchpanzanellas_1marchpanzanellas_10

You know what I really wish? I really wish the idea for this salad was something I invented myself. But, alas, I'm entering the blog world about 8 years too late. marchpanzanellas_11

This is a "panzanella" salad, which in my eyes, just means a hearty bowl with some good crusty bread. There are lots of great spring panzanella salad recipes out there. (Food and Wine 2012 anyone?!) Save yourself some time like I did and go with this one from Smitten Kitchen. Really, though. Smitten is pretty genius.marchpanzanellas_12

In fact, I recreated her recipe in hopes of changing something drastically so I could call it my own. Just didn't happen. It's that good. Only minor changes were needed in my humble opinion (tehe). Really, though. Make this. Pronto. marchpanzanellas_14 marchpanzanellas_15

Spring Panzanella Salad (adapted from Smitten Kitchen in 2008) Serves 4 Ingredients: For the croutons: ¼ cup olive oil 2 cloves garlic, minced 6 cups day-old bread, crust removed and cubed 6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese Salt and pepper, to taste For the vinaigrette: ½ of a medium-sized red onion, finely chopped 2 ½ tablespoons champagne or white wine vinegar Juice of ½ lemon ¼ cup olive oil 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard For the salad: 3 large leeks 2 teaspoons salt 1 pound asparagus 1, 15-ounce can of white beans, rinsed and drained Instructions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mix the bread cubes with the garlic, olive oil and parmesan in a large bowl.  Toss to coat well.  Transfer bread to a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake stirring once or twice until croutons are crisp and lightly colored on the outside, but still soft within, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

Mix the red onion with the vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil and Dijon. Whisk well and set aside.

Cut off dark green tops of leeks and trim root ends.  Halve each leek lengthwise to within to inches of root end.  Chop leeks into 1-inch pieces and separate strands.  Rinse well under cold running water to wash away sand.  Cover leeks with water in a large rimmed skilled. Cover, and simmer leeks until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Without draining the cooking water, transfer leeks to a strainer, and run cold water over to prevent overcooking.  Break off ends of asparagus; chop into 1 inch pieces, and cook in the boiling water until somewhat tender, but not wilting, about 3-5 minutes.  Strain and run cold water over asparagus.

Place leek and asparagus pieces in a large bowl with beans and cooled parmesan croutons.  Pour vinaigrette over and toss well.  Season with salt and pepper.