Tomato Asparagus Panzanella Salad

   

It’s been over a month since my last post, which means I have all kinds of things I can talk about this time around. A little while back Jah presented me with 3 seats to a local cheese-making class with The Dallas Mozzarella Co.  Jah and I brought my friend Leanna and we had a great time making fresh ricotta, mozzarella, oaxaca, and a fresh olive stuffed mozzarella roll. Of course with all of that unbelievably fresh cheese in my fridge, how could I resist making something like this beautiful tomato asparagus panzanella salad?

 Before I delve too much into the details of salad making (not that this salad has many – it’s so simple), I thought I’d talk a little about springtime in Texas. The telltale sign of spring is when the bluebonnets carpet the landscape. Not wanting to miss one of the prime spots for this surreal display of color, I drove out to Ennis, TX with my friend Chris to be able to photograph the fields at sunrise. Needless to say it was a worthwhile adventure!

Ennis Bluebonnets

After enjoying the brisk air (ok I was freezing ) we hopped back in the car and roamed the country side looking for more lovely photo ops. Along the way we stopped and snacked on the moist double chocolate zucchini muffins I packed for the trip (a recipe I’ll definitely have to share later). We saw deer, rabbits, horses, longhorn cattle, and even a grumpy minidonk! After a brief detour into a local winery we found a gorgeous field blanketed with bright red Indian paintbrush and had to get a shot.

Ennis Indian Paintbrush

Texas has a bit of a reputation for being a large expanse of dessert… essentially the prototype for every old western ever made. Believe it or not there is green stuff here too! 

But enough about all of that. You’re here for juicy, ripe tomatoes, aren’t cha? Me too, man… me too.

Tomato Asparagus Panzanella Salad

Panzanella is an Italian salad made with bits of bread, often as a means to use that day old loaf you’ve got sitting around. With such simple ingredients quality is really going to make a difference, so make sure to get the best tomatoes you can find. I love to mix varieties for a more colorful presentation, plus it adds a little complexity to the overall flavor. I make this style of salad fairly often whenever I’m preparing food for a large group of people, because it is so easy to multiply out to serve more. 

Tomato Asparagus Panzanella Salad

Tomato Asparagus Panzanella Salad
Serves 6
A simple Itaian salad tossed with cubes of toasted day old bread.
Print
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 small Italian baguette, cut into 1 inch cubes
  2. 1 1/2 pounds of mixed tomatoes, chopped (or about 2 pints of cherry tomatoes, halved)
  3. 1 bundle fresh asparagus, tough ends removed and cut into bite sized pieces
  4. 6-8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes
  5. 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  6. 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  7. Salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Toss bread cubes with about a tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with a little bit of sea salt. Bake at 425 for about 8 minutes until nice and toasty. Keep an eye on them as oven temps may vary. I give them a shake in the pan about halfway through.
  2. Combine olive oil, tomatoes, asparagus, fresh basil, and mozzarella in a large bowl and toss well to coat. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
  3. A few minutes prior to serving combine the tomato mixture with the toasted bread crumbs.
Calories
  1. Calorie count for this dish will vary a bit since the measurements are thrown together rather loosely. I find it often falls between 320-370 per serving whenever I make it.
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/
Tomato Asparagus Panzanella Salad


Asparagus & Green Pea Risotto

   

I think quite a few people are intrigued by the vegetarian lifestyle. A really common question that arises when people learn I don’t eat meat is, “Well what DO you eat?” There is a misconception that vegetarians survive on microgreens, tofu, and a cocktail of multivitamins… but in my experience this is rarely the case. Since becoming a vegetarian I still enjoy almost all of the dishes I loved when I ate meat – chili, tacos, stew, biscuits & gravy, pot pie – I just prepare them a little differently now. There are also a remarkable number of everyday entrees that are veggie-friendly without any ingredient changes – macaroni and cheese for instance. Or in this case… risotto! Not quite so easy to find in restaurants due to the fact that it’s usually simmered with a meat-based stock, but that is a great example of one of the minor adjustments you can make in a recipe that doesn’t affect the quality of the finished dish. You could even take it a step further and easily make it vegan by omitting the Parmesan and cooking with olive oil instead of butter. It will still be creamy and flavorful and awesome.

 

Asparagus & Green Pea Risotto

Many people dread the idea of cooking risotto from scratch because it requires a certain level of dedication. Sure it’s not a simple crock pot recipe that you can toss together and ignore for an hour, but I think the effort of risotto cooking is a little blown out of proportion. If you make risotto you’re going to be actively cooking for most of the process – but don’t let that deter you from giving it a try. The focus needed is minimal (whirling a spoon around while watching the TV in the other room) and the outcome is so worth it. Risotto is one of the ultimate comfort foods and it can be as rustic or as elegant as you like. Maybe you prefer a soupier consistency or maybe you want a pile of rich, starchy goodness that you can mound up on a fork. There is a lot of room for play once you have the basic technique down.  Just make sure that before you start you have your stock warmed up and nearby so you can easily ladle it into the rice. I use the two front burners on my stove – one for the stock and the other for the risotto. Ready to try it? Of course you are!

Asparagus & Green Pea Risotto

Asparagus & Green Pea Risotto
Serves 5
Creamy, comforting risotto – it’s not as hard as you think!
Print
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 5 cups warm vegetable stock (I only ended up using 4 while cooking, but better to err on the side of caution)
  2. 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  3. 1/2 small onion, diced
  4. 3 cloves garlic, minced
  5. 1 1/2 cups uncooked arborio rice
  6. 1/4 cup white wine
  7. 2 cups chopped fresh asparagus
  8. 1 cup frozen green peas
  9. 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  10. 1/4 cup good quality parmesan cheese, grated
  11. 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  12. 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
  13. 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg, optional
  14. Salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a high sided skillet and cook onions and garlic until warm and fragrant. Stir in arborio rice and allow to cook for a couple minutes to absorb the flavors in the pan.
  2. Pour white wine over the rice, stir well, and cook until liquid is absorbed.
  3. Add 1/4 cup of your vegetable stock and cook until absorbed, giving it a good stir every now and then. Whenever the liquid has almost absorbed (don’t let it get dry) into the rice it is time to add another 1/4 cup of stock. You will repeat this process until the rice is al dente.
  4. While the risotto simmers away you can cook up your asparagus. Melt about a teaspoon of butter in a nonstick pan, toss your chopped asparagus with it, and cook 8-10 minutes. It should still be bright green with a little bit of bite to it. Turn the heat off.
  5. Stir frozen green peas into the asparagus and cover. The residual warmth of the asparagus will thaw and cook the green peas while the chill from the green peas will keep the asparagus from continuing to cook in the pan. It works out great.
  6. When the rice is done (taste it to be sure, it took about 20-25 minutes for me) stir in the additional tablespoon of butter, parmesan cheese, cooked veggies, parsley, walnuts, and any additional seasoning. You may find you don’t need to add salt if the sodium content of your stock is high.
Calories
  1. 395
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/

Asparagus & Green Pea Risotto