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Friday, May 9, 2014

Spring Panzanella Salad w/ Balsamic and Spring Herb Vinaigrette

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Pompeian. All opinions are 100% mine.
Spring Panzanella Salad w/ Balsamic and Spring Herb Vinaigrette
Did you know that May is both National Vinegar Month and National Salad Month? Somebody totally planned that. And that's what I call great planning. I don't know about you, but my favorite way to dress a salad is with a vinaigrette, which is exactly why I'm excited to be partnering with Pompeian to bring you a simple, yet bright and tasty vinaigrette to enjoy over what may just be the perfect spring salad. If I do say so myself.

I've mentioned in the past how my favorite salads are the "salad as a meal" type of salads. Sure, I like a little roughage to close out a satisfying meal, but salads can be so much more than that. And personally, if I'm choosing to eat a salad as my meal, I usually opt out of heavy dressings, and instead choose a simple oil and vinegar-based one instead.

So, you're probably tired of hearing about the long, grueling winter that we had this year. So am I. But, it bears mention since we are just now beginning to see some glorious green vegetables starting to grow here in my part of the country, and we're already into May. After month upon month of frozen ground and either preserved or trucked in produce, I can finally find asparagus, baby greens, and even tender herbs bursting from the earth in my own backyard (or lining the stalls of my farmers' market).

Spring Panzanella Salad w/ Balsamic and Spring Herb Vinaigrette
I decided that I couldn't decide. I wanted each and every hue of green, from the palest fennel bulb to the darkest baby kale leaf, in my salad. And then Panzanella popped into my head and took up residence. Now, forgive me purists - I do know that Panzanella is made using stale chunks of bread and juicy summer tomatoes; it's a Tuscan summer salad. And I adore it in all of its unadulterated glory. But it's springtime - and I'm giving it a new outfit to fit the season. I promise I'll put it back in its own clothes when summer rolls around.

So, when I combined all of that new spring produce with some hearty, chewy bread that has soaked up the juices of the vinaigrette that I made using Pompeian Balsamic Vinegar, Pompeian olive oil, and a whole loaf of fresh spring herbs, what resulted was a thing of beauty. A "salad as a meal" that was hearty, fresh, light, and entirely satisfying.

This is how I want to celebrate each and every May (aka National Vinegar Month and National Salad Month) from this day forward.

Spring Panzanella Salad w/ Balsamic and Spring Herb Vinaigrette
A twist on the classic Tuscan salad, this Spring Panzanella utilizes the beautiful green bounty of spring vegetables and herbs. Chewy chunks of bread and a tangy Balsamic vinaigrette bring contrast and balance.
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Spring Panzanella Salad w/ Balsamic and Spring Herb Vinaigrette
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 2 minutes

Ingredients (serves 6-8)
    for the "body" of the salad:
    • 8 ounces hearty Italian bread (at least 2-3 days old)
    • 1 pound asparagus, cut into 2" pieces on the bias
    • 2.5 ounces baby kale or arugula
    • 1 medium fennel bulb, core removed and sliced paper thin (reserve fennel fronds)
    • 1 medium red onion, 1/4" dice
    • small handful fresh Italian parsley leaves, roughly chopped
    for the Balsamic and Spring Herb Vinaigrette:
    • 5 tablespoons Pompeian Olive Oil
    • 3 tablespoons Pompeian Balsamic Vinegar
    • 2-4 heaping tablespoons chopped fresh Spring Herbs (any combination of Italian parsley, fennel fronds, chives, chervil, dill, ramps, garlic scapes)
    • couple pinches of kosher or sea salt
    • freshly ground black pepper
    Cut the bread into approximately 1/2-inch cubes. Put them into an extra-large bowl and set aside.

    Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a medium bowl with ice water and set aside. Cut the asparagus into 2-inch lengths, then drop them into the boiling water for 1-2 minutes, or until just al dente. Scoop them out and immediately transfer them to the bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and lock in the color. Once cool, drain and transfer to a clean kitchen towel or a few layers of paper towels and very lightly pat dry. Add them to the bowl with the bread and all of the remaining salad ingredients.

    Gently toss all of the ingredients together.

    make the Balsamic and Spring Herb Vinaigrette:
    Put all of the vinaigrette ingredients into a jar with a lid, then shake like crazy to emulsify.
    Spring Panzanella Salad w/ Balsamic and Spring Herb Vinaigrette
    finishing the salad:
    Drizzle the vinaigrette over the ingredients in the bowl, then (you guessed it) gently toss everything together.

    Let the salad stand at room temperature for at least 15 minutes (but up to 1 hour), then toss everything once again before serving.

    This makes a lovely side salad, or a salad-as-a-meal. The bread cubes that were once slightly stale and hard to eat become chewy and all-together addictive from soaking up some of the vinaigrette. If you prefer it even "wetter", try doubling the amount of vinaigrette.

    Feel free to add other spring vegetables like cooked fava beans, artichokes, watercress, spring onions, lettuces, or other greens to the mix!
    Spring Panzanella Salad w/ Balsamic and Spring Herb Vinaigrette