Asparagus Panzanella

Asparagus Panzanella
Serves 6
  1. 1 pound medium asparagus, trimmed
  2. 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  3. 4 T. extra-virgin olive oil
  4. sea salt, preferably gray salt
  5. freshly ground black pepper
  6. 1 cup English peas, blanched for 1 minute, until tender
  7. 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion, thinly sliced
  8. 1 1/2 T. plus 1/2 t. fresh lemon juice
  9. 1/4 head radicchio, ribbon-cut, soaked, drained, and dried
  10. 1 cup whole baby spinach or arugula leaves
  11. Wedge of ricotta salata cheese, sliced with peeler
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Trim the tips off the asparagus stalks and keep in a separate bowl. Add the asparagus tips to salted water and cook for 45 seconds, just until they lose their raw taste. Lift them out with a sieve and drop into an ice bath for 3 minutes. Add the remaining portion of the asparagus spears to the boiling water and cook until tender enough to puree, about 3 minutes for thin asparagus, then drain well. Add peas and blanch for 1 minute, pop in ice bath for 2 minutes. Drain.
  2. Put the blanched asparagus spears in a blender or food processor with the basil, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Puree until smooth. Add a little water if needed to thin.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the croutons, asparagus tips, peas, and green onions. Add some of the asparagus puree and toss to coat well. Add more puree as needed to coat lightly and evenly. Add 1 ½ tablespoons of the lemon juice and toss again. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then make an even layer of the mixture on a platter.
  4. In another bowl, combine the radicchio and spinach or arugula. Dress with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss well, then mound on top of the dressed croutons and sprinkle with the shavings of ricotta salata.
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