What kind of food do you make when you want to appear virtuous and wholesome after a rather hedonistic start to the weekend? You make panzanella. “What is panzanella?” some of you may be asking. It’s bread salad. A salad…based around bread. Um, YOU’RE WELCOME, EVERYONE.
After a hefty helping of prosecco and cheese during Galentine’s Day, then not one, but two meals of pizza on Saturday night, plus the seemingly never-ending bowl of M&Ms outside of my room all weekend, I was feeling pretty maxed out by Monday afternoon. But since it was a three-day weekend I was, of course, still feeling slightly indulgent. That’s just how weekends work. But, I was determined to get something green in my diet and that’s when I remembered seeing this recipe on Food52: a single-serving meal that I already had all the ingredients for. Plus, peas! Those are green!
Having Monday off is one of the best feelings in the world. It’s so luxurious. I’d like to pretend it was so wonderful to have last Monday off because I was so productive during the actual weekend…but I won’t do you like that. This cold weather really has me tethered as closely to my bed as I can be.
But I digress.
In addition to the healthful peas (that are cooked in butter…oh well), this bread salad includes a warm vinaigrette. Right now, any whisper of warmth makes my ears perk up. A sprinkling of fresh parsley on the top to remind me of the balmy days of summer with endless fresh herbs growing in backyards. I imagine the bleak days of winter giving way to the refreshing breezes of April and May. That helped tempt me out from under my faux fur throw. But what else is in this salad? Surely there must be at least one more component. Oh, yes, there most definitely is, and that, my friends, is bacon. The faux fur blanket was thrown back as I shuffled dashed into the kitchen to get started on this “salad” that had me at least thinking of eating healthy, ya know, starting the next day.
If you check out the original recipe linked above, you’ll see that Phyllis Grant, the developer of this bad boy, has described the servings that it yields as, “a large lunch for one.” She’s right. Take that into consideration if you decide to make this. I scaled down a bit and it was still rather large for lunch.
Additionally, I think this would make a marvelous brunch if you put an egg on it. I’m almost a little sad that I didn’t, but sometimes it’s good to miss things. Eggs and I spend a lot of time together, so sometimes it’s important that we take little breaks so as not to let the magic fade.
Why am I still talking? My pile of blankets is waiting for me.
Warm Bread Salad with Peas and Bacon
Serves: 1-2 people, depending on hunger level
4 thick slices of baguette, cubed
2 slices of thick cut bacon
½ cup frozen peas
1 small shallot, peeled and diced
1 large garlic clove, minced or pressed
¼ cup sherry vinegar (or white wine or champagne would work well, too)
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
A pinch or two of kosher salt
A few sprigs of fresh parsley, chopped
- In a small sauté pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and add the bread cubes. Toss every now and then. Making sure each side is slightly toasted. (This may be slightly uneven, but that’s ok – do the best you can. It’s rustic!)
- In another pan, like a cast iron, cook the bacon until crisp. Once finished, remove the bacon and place on a paper towel lined plate. Pour most of the bacon grease into a grease jar (don’t pour oil down the drain, use a jar or an empty can). Leave just enough to still coat the pan, about a teaspoon.
- To make the vinaigrette, place the pan back on low heat, toss in the shallots and cook for about a minute, scraping up bacon bits. Add the garlic and keep it moving for about 30 seconds. Add the vinegar, bring the heat to medium, and let it boil for about 20 seconds.
- Pour everything from the pan into a jar or a small mixing bowl, whisk in mustard and then the olive oil until it’s emulsified. Set aside.
- Again, place the bacon/vinaigrette pan back on medium heat. Add the butter and let it melt and bubble. As soon as it smells nutty (you’re basically making brown butter), add the peas and a pinch of salt. Cook until the peas are just cooked through and still green. It should only take about a minute and a half.
- Add the bread cubes to the pan with the peas, add about a quarter cup of the vinaigrette and stir it all together. If you want a little more dressing, add it after the bread has had a chance to soak the first quarter cup up. Transfer the peas and bread to a plate, top with bacon and parsley, and eat it all.
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