Bread Salad with Asparagus, Mint and Rhubarb Pickles
This is a delicious spring version of a summer panzanella. Pickling makes the rhubarb slightly less tart, but it still adds a nice zing to the salad- it's worth the extra step, and only takes 5-10 minutes.
This looks like a long recipe, but each step is super simple; it's very quick to assemble. Plus, the rhubarb, bread, and vinaigrette can all be prepared in advance, for a very really easy dinner.
Rhubarb Quick Pickles:
1 c. rhubarb, diagonally cut into about 1" pieces
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. rice, white, or red wine vinegar
2-3 Tbsp. organic raw sugar or honey
Salt and pepper
Pickling spices I like with rhubarb: dried chilis, red pepper flakes, bay leaf, seeds: coriander, fennel, mustard and pepper; also good- fresh ginger and lemon rind or lemongrass slivers. Experiment with the flavors you most enjoy.
This is my most recent "concoction":
1 tsp. coriander seeds, 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds, 2 thin slices lemon or lime, 1 bay leaf
Put the rhubarb into a pint glass jar. Combine water, vinegar, sugar and a dash of salt and pepper in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. If using seasonings, add them too. If you wish to isolate the seeds, put into a little piece of cheesecloth and tie closed-- I don't bother, and just brush any excessive seeds from the rhubarb when taking it from the jar (a few end up in my salad, and I kind of like them). Simmer about 3-5 minutes, then pour over rhubarb. Cool slightly, cover, and refrigerate for an hour- or up to several days.
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar (+1-2 tsp. more to your taste)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper
Whisk together and season to your taste. Add a wee drizzle of honey if you wish. Store in refrigerator until ready to use (whisk before serving).
Preheat oven to 375. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Put 2 c. rough torn 1" bread cubes in a large bowl (crusts on is fine). Toss with 1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil and/or melted butter.
Spread, single layer, on parchment lined sheet; bake for 10-15 minutes, or until brown and toasted.
Cool, and store in air tight zip bag or other container until ready to use. Can be frozen.
2 c. asparagus, diagonally cut into about 1"-2" pieces
1 Tbsp. thinly chopped or slivered mild onion
In a large bowl, toss asparagus, onions and croutons with vinaigrette. Allow to marinate 3-5 minutes.
Add and toss together:
2-3 handfuls of mixed leafy greens (a bit of watercress or arugula is good in the mix)
1/4-1/2 c. snipped mint
Season with salt and pepper, and an optional sprinkle of grated/shredded parmesan cheese.
Recipe created or adapted by Liz Talley, Urban Graze
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