This is the time of year I start thinking I should be eating more salads BEFORE the holidays start. That way, I feel like I’m coming into Thanksgiving and Christmas a little ahead of the game. Do you ever feel like that? It’s like my body starts craving fruits and vegetables more now than any other time of the year. At the same time, I start planning my holiday menus so that I can prepare my “make-aheads” to keep me from having to scramble at the last minute. As I nibble on cucumber, tomato and asparagus, I’ll be putting together some of my holiday sides that I can freeze and just pull out a few days ahead of the meal. Like my cranberry sauce (for Thanksgiving) and my ever so famous creamed corn with cilantro (for Christmas).
So, a vegie dish that is quick and easy and tasty that satisfies my craving is this asparagus panzanella salad. The recipe calls for a country-style bread cut into cubes, but in a pinch I’ll use french bread or ciabatta; whatever I have on hand. And, the bread can be torn into bite sized pieces rather than cut into cubes to make it even quicker and a bit more rustic. The secret of a great panzanella salad is to let the vinaigrette soak into the bread. You can set the vinaigrette aside if you don’t plan to serve this salad immediately. Just dress the it about a half hour before you serve it to allow the vinaigrette to really soak into the bread. The Kalamata olives and capers add a really nice salty bite that balances this dish beautifully. Yummy!
Since this recipe can be served cold and several days after you’ve made it, grilling the asparagus is best for the overall flavor and balance of this dish. In fact, you could tweak this recipe by roasting all the vegetables in the oven or on your grill to create a wonderfully roasted panzanella salad. Oh! I like that idea! Consider this one for your Thanksgiving table perhaps?
When I start thinking about Thanksgiving, I am reminded of the construction paper hand turkeys we used to make in grade school. Who didn’t have those turkeys held up by a magnet on the refrigerator in November? They were so fun to make and, most importantly, to present to Mom at the end of the school day. To see her face beam with joy and praise me for my art was all I needed!
- 1 lb asparagus
- 1 inch English cucumber cut into 1/2 pieces
- 1/2 inch red onion cut into 1/4 wedges
- 10 red cherry tomatoes halved
- 10 yellow cherry tomatoes halved
- 3/4 cup Kalamata olives pitted
- 1/4 cup capers
- 6 slices of country-style bread cut into cubes
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
Cut the tough end off of the asparagus. Grill on a stove-top grill or outdoor grill until cooked and slightly charred. Cut into 1 inch pieces.
In a medium bowl, combine the cucumber, onion, tomatoes, olives, capers, bread and asparagus.
In a small bowl, mixed the vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour over the salad and toss. Let stand for 10 minutes so that the vinaigrette has time to absorb into the bread, then serve.