Asparagus is akin to childhood—its season is fleeting and by time you realize how good you had it, the moment has passed. I especially like asparagus because it’s a sure sign the growing season is gearing up. After a winter of root vegetables, the first glimmers of green stalks are like seeing old friends again.
The situation in the Hudson Valley is a bit nail biting. Between the warm temps, so uncharacteristic of March, and rebound into colder weather (snow on April 4th!), this year’s harvest is at risk. I’m pretty sure asparagus is sturdy enough to bounce back, but plums, apricots, and cherries may be obsolete for one farmer this summer, according this article in the Poughkeepsie Journal.
While it’s a bit early to start thinking about asparagus if you cook seasonally like myself (hooray for hydroponic tomatoes!), I’m sharing this Asparagus & Arugula Panzanella recipe for Food Network’s Sensational Sides—the theme being asparagus. If you’re new to panzanella, it’s a thrifty (and tasty) way to use up day old bread. You want a good quality, thick-cut country bread or baguette for this salad. Sliced white bread simply won’t be strong enough to absorb the dressing (and that’s the best part!).
Writing about this recipe, an oldie from the archives which first appeared in May 2010, I’m reminded of the Slow Roasted Tomato & Fresh Mozzarella Panzanella I shared in Homemade with Love. Can you believe it’s been three years since my cookbook was published? Where does the time go? (by the way, it’s not too late to leave a review on Amazon if you have the book, and have enjoyed using it these last few years).
It was my mom who reminded me of the date a few weeks ago when we did a quick pit stop in Brooklyn to see her for lunch, while on our way upstate. She showed up to the pizzeria with a bouquet of roses, and I was all like “huh?”. And then she told me happy three-year anniversary. It was a reminder that no matter how many ups and downs we have (Italians are sooo stubborn), she has always been my biggest fan, next to my Mikey. I suppose that’s what we do as mothers—encourage our kids to dream big, and then ready our pom poms to cheer them on. Thanks for instilling that in me, mama, so I can give your granddaughters the same gift. Love you to the moon, and back.
asparagus & arugula panzanella
serves 4 to 6
Music Pairing: The 59th Street Song by Simon & Garfunkel
It’s been quite some time since I’ve paired a song with my posts, and while this one has been featured before, it’s fitting for what I’ve written. It brings me back to this post, and sitting in the car on Roosevelt Island, while Mikey took the kids to see the tram—something I’ve been meaning to do with them for forever.
3 cups cubed baguette—day old is fine
1 bunch pencil-asparagus, rough ends trimmed
1 small tomato, cut into 8 wedges
3 ounces fresh mozzarella, diced
Handful rocket arugula or other spicy green, rinsed & patted dry
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for roasting asparagus
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
A few drops of honey, to taste
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Spread bread cubes single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast toast until very golden, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, add asparagus to a cast iron skillet, drizzle with some olive oil. Season with salt and peppers. When croutons are done, remove and set aside to cool. Add the skillet to the oven and roast until asparagus is just tender, about 5 to 7 minutes—make sure not to overcook. Remove from oven, let cool for a minute or two, then cut into 2-inch pieces.
In a deep bowl, whisk together the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add the honey and season with salt and pepper. Add the toasted bread cubes, asparagus, tomato, mozzarella and arugula to the bowl. Toss to coat well. Pile onto a large platter or divide among 4 to 6 small plates and serve immediately.
Some more asparagus inspiration from my friends at Food Network:
Creative Culinary: Bacon Wrapped Asparagus with Garlic and Parsley
Homemade Delish: Asparagus Crostini
Devour: 25 Ways to Use Asparagus
Feed Me Phoebe: Spring Quinoa Mujadara with Asparagus
In Jennie’s Kitchen: Asparagus & Arugula Panzanella
Healthy Eats: 5 Fresher Ways to Prepare Asparagus
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Asparagus, Onion & Pesto Pizza
Red or Green: Roasted Asparagus with Spicy Thousand Island Dressing
The Mom 100: Millet Greens Salad
Taste with the Eyes: Modern Asparagus Spring Rolls – Red Chili, Black Sesame, Almond
FN Dish: 6 Ways to Bundle Up Asparagus This Spring