Roasted Asparagus with Panzanella

This is a recipe deep from the archives in 2010. So weird that was three years ago. Anywho, I put this recipe together after a trip to Minneapolis to visit Jenna and a lovely dinner at Bar La Grassa. This is a ridiculously delicious way to enjoy Spring's favorite veggie, asparagus. Plus it is packed with tons of other vegetables, the salty loveliness of pancetta, and the crunch of croutons. There is a lot of chopping involved, but after that this comes together quite easily. 

Roasted Asparagus with Panzanella 
makes 4-6 side dish portions

1 bunch of asparagus, trimmed
olive oil
2 thick slices of pancetta, small dice (you can also use bacon)
2 large slices of your favorite bread, small cubes
1 medium onion, small dice
1 red pepper, small dice
1 small eggplant, small dice
1 zucchini, small dice
24 oz can of whole tomatoes, drained and crushed with your hands
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss asparagus on a baking sheet with olive oil, salt and pepper to coat and arrange them so it is on layer. Roast in the oven until cooked through, but still just tender, about 25 minutes. 

In a large skillet, cook the pancetta over medium heat until crisp, stirring often. Remove pan from heat and place pancetta on paper towel lined plate reserving fat in the pan. Return the pan to medium heat and cook bread cubes in pancetta fat until crisp and crunchy, stirring often. Remove pan from the heat and add the bread cubes to the plate with the pancetta. 

Return pan to medium heat and add enough olive oil to coat bottom of pan if there is no longer enough. Add the onion, red pepper, eggplant, and zucchini, tossing everything together, cook until vegetables are just tender. Stirring often. Add the tomatoes and vinegar to the pan, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze and combine all ingredients. Add the garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring mixture to a boil, turn heat down to medium low and let simmer for 15 minutes. When it is done, all the vegetables should be cooked through, but not so soft that they lose their shape. 

Place vegetable mixture on a large serving platter. Sprinkle the reserved pancetta and bread cubes over the vegetables. Top with the roasted asparagus and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Serve hot or at room temperature. 


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