When I met the Cute Gardener (oh, going on about six years ago now), one of the most delightful things about him was the fact that he didn’t like to celebrate birthdays or Valentine’s Day or other so-called “special” occasions. He felt that every day should be great, and why should we designate certain days to take a break out of our lives to revel in happiness when we could just live happy? Well, that fit my M.O. to a tee, which is why we are super compatible. I am the girl who forgets your anniversary but will buy you a souvenir on a whim in Mexico because it reminds me of you for no reason at all, other than I love you!
So, this means that pretty much every night is a reason to celebrate existence. Most nights, the CG cooks for me, as readers of my blog diligently know. But the one time a week that I cook, I go all out. Complex recipe… Multiple store shopping…. ¼ of one month’s budget in one day expended. That’s traditional. The only thing that gives me a little grief in those instances is that I have to plan a whole meal around one item that originally grabbed me. Sometimes I see a starter I want to make, or a dessert, and then I have to go through the mental machinations of figuring all the rest of the components out. As an artist, that kind of strategy isn’t exactly something that flows.
So, I was delighted this week when I could just say to the CG that I wanted to make a salad and he could say to me in return, “Fine, I would be happy to stay outside and smoke some meat without having to worry about side dishes in the kitchen.”
We may have found our groove. Because what resulted was an incredible night of my favorite kind of funky, fatty grilled lamb alongside a superfood-esque, co-opted panzanella salad and our equally beloved petite sirah from Santa Barbara’s Jaffurs winery.
Panzanella Salad with Asparagus Instead of Tomatoes for Two
(adapted from a Food and Wine recipe)
- 2 large eggs
- Four thin slices of peasant bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
- 1/8 cup plus 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
- 1 lb. asparagus
- 1/8 cup red wine vinegar
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup packed young mustard greens (ours were vibrant right from our garden!)
- 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/8 lb. pecorino romano, crumbled
- 3 small radishes, thinly sliced
Preheat the oven to 350. Put the eggs in a saucepan of water and bring to a simmer over moderately high heat. Simmer for 6 minutes. Drain the saucepan and fill it with cold water. Crack the eggs all over and let stand in the water for 1 minute. Peel and thickly slice the eggs; the yolks will be barely cooked but not runny.
Spread the bread pieces on a baking sheet and brush lightly with olive oil. Bake for about 12 minutes, until crisp.
Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the asparagus until just tender, about 3 minutes. Drain, cool and cut the asparagus in half lengthwise.
In a small bowl, combine the 1/8 cup plus 1 tablespoons of oil with the vinegar; season with salt and pepper. In a large bowl, toss the asparagus, toasted bread, greens, onion and cheese. Drizzle with the dressing and toss. Garnish with the eggs and radish and serve.