Monday, June 4, 2012

Practically Perfect

I have for you, after much (delay and some) ado, a Mary Poppins salad, of sorts- practically perfect in every way.

It's colorful, crisp, rosy-cheeked, and wart-less.
With only a bit of preparation, it packs quite a magical punch.

I appreciate the varied textures and hues, the easy seasonality of spring, even perhaps early summer.  This salad is somewhat flexible, of course, but opinionated.  Like a good food magazine* or a flying British nanny.  Ideas: add some avocado (slices on top or chunks blended into the vinaigrette), a sprinkling of fresh dill, some shavings of Parmesan, or a handful of chopped, toasted pistachios.

I've been a sucker for panzanellas since I first tried one in Chapel Hill, NC over 15 years ago.  Soft boiled eggs have taken a bit longer to woo my affections.  Asparagus has always held my heart.  Perhaps you feel similarly?

Like the witty nanny, I do believe this leafed beauty will grow on you, too.
(No, not literally.)

Side note:  I have it on good authority that this has changed a certain pint-sized gal with a disdain for asparagus into a lover of spring salads, inclusive of that very veggie.  Perhaps that was less a side note and more a testimonial.  Sorry for the delay in getting this out there onto the interwebs, dearest AG and family!

*HT to Food & Wine for the original version


Spring Panzanella Salad
serves 6

4 eggs (if farm-fresh, chill and age for 1 week)
5 slices of rustic sourdough
1/3 c olive oil
2 lb asparagus
1/4 c red wine vinegar
3 c spring greens with herbs (boxed or garden picked, rinsed, and spun)
1/2 of a small red onion, thinly sliced
2 radishes, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 350degF.
Place eggs gently into a small saucepan; add water to cover.  Bring to just a simmer for 6min by keeping heat moderate.  Immediately pour off hot water and cover eggs with ice water.  Tap each shell well and let rest in the cold water for 1-2min.  Peel as soon as possible thereafter.  Before adding to the salad, quarter or slice eggs, admiring the perfectly creamy, sunny centers.

While eggs simmer, baste slices of bread lightly in olive oil and bake in oven for 10-12min until golden and lightly crisped.  Once cool-to-touch, tear into pieces.

Steam asparagus until crisp-tender (steamer basket over rapidly boiling water for just a few minutes is perfect for me).  Run immediately under cold water and drain.  Slice fat stalks in half if desired.

Set aside half of the thinly sliced red onion.  Mince the remaining onion slices (1/4 onion total).  Take remaining olive oil and blend with minced onion, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper (ideally with an immersion blender or small food processor to emulsify).

Pour 1/2 of dressing onto the center of a salad bowl or deep serving platter.  Place greens (with fresh herbs) on top.  Layer decoratively with the cut eggs, toasted & torn bread, asparagus, red onion slices, and radish slices.

Toss immediately prior to serving.

Serve with a crisp Savignon blanc or fresh lemonade.