I have to admit that in the beginning of this whole commitment to eating healthy thing I felt a little bit like a mother trying to get their child to eat their vegetables. The only difference of course being that I was also the kid. So I am essentially trying to trick myself into eating healthy. The truth is that is has been really easy. My tastes are growing up quickly, which I think has a lot to do with being fed up (see how I did that?) with feeling like I’m going to explode after every meal I eat. So my commitment is to eat less on the whole, subscribing to the concept of having a little something every couple of hours, that little something being healthy, veggie-filled foods with as little carbs as possible. I refuse to cut them out completely but I don’t think they should have a part in every meal.
Panzanella is awesome and perfect for this plan. If I did have children, and they didn’t like vegetables, this would be THE get-the-kids-to-eat-veggies meal. The great part is that its not like the recipe involves glazing the asparagus in powdered sugar or anything, it really is totally healthy. In fact, the other day I actually said “asparagus. Mmmmm..” Benny abruptly stopped me and we had a celebratory moment when we realized that I didn’t mean cupcakes. Similar to the way I excitedly yell out “lookie! I’m eating vegetables!” every time I realize that the soup I’m eating has carrots in it. It’s safe to say that I’ve been yelling that at every meal lately. And I gotta say, I’m feeling pretty good. To further illustrate my point, I was eating some Panzanella the other day as I was running out the door and I really had a hard time putting it down long enough to get ready. So. Mmm… asparagus.
Panzanella is really an Italian “fridge salad” if you will, so this is an incredibly flexible recipe. Just toss in anything that sounds good, whatever you have around.
2 slices of day-old baguette, cubed
1 handful asparagus, rough ends trimmed
1 small tomato, diced or cut into wedges
Desired amount fresh mozzarella, diced or cut into strips (the second time I made it I did strips and it was much better)
1 handful spinach, rinsed & patted dry
1 Small pile of green onions, depending on your tastes
extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for roasting asparagus
a few drops of honey, to taste
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Spread bread cubes single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast toast until very golden, about 8 to 10 minutes. A toaster oven does the job as well.
In a skillet, place asparagus and drizzle with some olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 2 minutes, then add the skillet to the oven, removing the bread cubes, and roast until asparagus is just tender, about 4 to 6 minutes—make sure not to overcook. Remove from oven, place asparagus and bread both in the fridge for a few minutes to cool and/or chill. (*If you don't mind a luke-warm salad you can leave these out but in the summer months I think it's much better and more refreshing if you give both a couple minutes in the fridge)
While the bread and asparagus are in the fridge, you can cut and prepare all the rest of your ingredients.
In a mixing 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 bowl or plate and serve immediately