Spring Panzanella


1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
6-7 cups rustic bread, cubed (I like to use sourdough and keep crusts) – about 6-7 slices
4 tbsp freshly grated Parmiggiano-Reggiano
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 shallot, minced
2-3 tbps sherry vinegar
1-2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp honey (if you want a bit of sweetness)

2 large leeks
2 tbsp butter
1 lb asparagus, washed, trimmed and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 cup fresh peas
2 cups arugula or sorrel
2 tsp chopped parsley
freshly ground pepper
freshly grated Parmiggiano-Reggiano (if you want to sprinkle some before serving)


Preheat oven to 400F.

Mix together garlic, oil, Parmesan and salt and pepper and drizzle over bread (that’s been put in a large bowl). Mix well being sure to coat the bread. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake, stirring a couple of times and rotating the sheet mid-way through, until the croutons are lightly colored on the outside, but are still somewhat soft inside, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. [Should you make your croutons crispy, don’t despair, all is not lost. When you mix all your ingredients together, let the panzanella sit for 10 minutes or so, allowing the edges of croutons to get a bit soggy absorbing the juices/oils of the salad – and it’ll soften them up!]

In a smaller bowl, mix together the shallot and the vinegar. Let sit for a few minutes. Stir in lemon juice, olive oil and mustard. Set aside. (Can be made ahead.)

Remove the dark green tops of keeps and trim root ends. Half, or quarter the leeks and wash out whatever sand/dirt might have accumulated inside. Saute leeks on slow heat in butter (2 tbsp) for 20 minutes until wilted, translucent and delicate. Set aside.

In the same skillet, heat a glug of olive oil and saute the asparagus for 5-8 minutes until they turn bright green and get warm, but are still crisp and crunchy. Set aside.

In the same skillet, over a small glug of olive oil, cook arugula or sorrel until it has wilted – 3 minutes or so.

Combine with the croutons, peas, asparagus and leeks. Pour enough vinaigrette to coat, add in the parsley, and toss well. Season with salt and pepper and if necessary grate a bit of Parmesan on top. Let sit a few minutes before serving so that the bread gets a bit soggy and absorbs the vinaigrette.

© 2023 Olga Massov