Spring Panzanella

05 . 04 . 11

Life has a funny way of bringing things into our lives that tote a particular message just when we need it most. Last week I was sitting in a waiting room after a particularly tumultuous morning and picked up an old issue of O Magazine and opened it at a random page where “The Journey,” a poem by Mary Oliver was highlighted:

One day you finally knew / what you had to do, and began, / though the voices around you / kept shouting their bad advice / though the whole house / began to tremble / and you felt the old tug / at your ankles. / “Mend my life!” / each voice cried. / But you didn’t stop. / You knew what you had to do, / though the wind pried / with its stiff fingers / at the very foundations, / though their melancholy was terrible.

It was already late enough,  / and a wild night, / and the road full of fallen branches and stones. / But little by little, / as you left their voices behind, / the stars began to burn / through the sheets of clouds, / and there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own, / that kept you company / as you strode deeper and deeper / into the world, / determined to do the only thing you could do / determined to save the only life you could save.

I could have melted right out of my seat. Mary’s wise words snuck into my day and gave me the boost of energy and confidence I desperately needed to stay the course.

The gift was unexpected, as they often are. Rarely do signs appear with big flashing lights to guide or comfort us in difficult times. Inspiration surrounds us at every moment, gently whispering and nudging us in the right direction – half the time, we’re just too busy or distracted to even notice. Direction and guidance lie tucked in the innuendo; the passing smile of a stranger, old songs on the radio… little reminders that we are not alone and that it’s all okay.

It is our work to practice mindfulness and give ourselves permission to spend time just noticing. When we stop to simply notice, our busy and anxious minds are forced to the sideline and our intuitions get a chance to shine. The little signs around us end up only pointing to what we already instinctively knew.

Spring is the perfect season to practice the art of noticing all the beauty and wisdom the world has to offer us. The winds are shifting, the flowers are blooming, and the markets are bursting with fresh and invigorating vegetables that help keep a lightness about our days. The delicate bounties in our CSA box inspired a spring Panzanella based on Erin’s at Fresh365, but with produce this good my version ended up more like a big salad with extra croutons. The ingredient list may feel long, but hang with me.

Spring Panzanella

  • ½ loaf of bread, cut into 1” cubes
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 leeks, sliced thin
  • 1 small bunch of asparagus, cut to 1” pieces
  • ¼ cup red onion, chopped
  • 2 small fennel bulbs, cut thin with a mandoline
  • 1 cup onion sprouts
  • 1 carton cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup spring peas, halved
  • 2-3 cups rocket, or arugula
  • ¼ cup fresh mint, chopped
  • ½ cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 can of garbanzo beans, drained and tossed with lemon
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup white wine vinegar
  • juice of ½ lemon

Toss bread cubes in olive oil and generous amounts of salt, and pepper. Lay flat on a baking sheet and toss in the oven at 400’ for 10 minutes. Switch the oven to broil, and toast on one side for 2 minutes. Shake the pan to turn the cubes and broil until golden brown and crispy. Set to the side.

In a small pan, bring 3-4 cups of water to boil and cook asparagus for no longer than 2 minutes. Remove from heat immediately and immerse in cold water to stop cooking. In a large bowl, combine the leeks, red onion, mint, basil, fennel, tomatoes, sprouts, and spring peas, toss with a splash of oil and vinegar, then add the rocket/arugula and cooled asparagus. Toss with the additional dressing, garbanzo beans, and bread cubes. Season with a bit of lemon juice, salt and pepper.

  • What a beautiful post. I really enjoyed following your thoughts and seeing all of the fresh greens in the lovely salad.

  • looks beautiful!! panzanella has been on my list for a while now.

  • What a beautiful salad – I love how packed it is with all the best of spring! Have you ever tried using fresh garbanzo beans? They appear at our market pretty frequently and I’ve used them once. They have a different flavor than the canned or dried – sort of greener, if that makes sense. They’re a bit labor intensive, though, since there are just one or two in each pod.

  • Hi! I sooo love your blog and your style. Your pics are great and the food looks beyond fresh!! Look forward to meeting you at the Bake Sale Saturday. :)

  • Lovely poem — magical when you come across something that speaks directly to you. The salad is wonderful as well. All the ingredients are so perfect together — better than panzanella.

  • My goodness this is beautiful! Thanks for sharing :)

  • Wow, that looks so fresh and so good! I’ve never tried panzanella before. Thanks for reminding me to check into the local CSA again!

  • I could eat this kind of salad everyday and be very happy indeed, yum!! So glad I stumbled across your blog this arvo!!

  • Mary Oliver has always been one of my favorite poets, particularly nature poets. Thanks for sharing.

  • Beautiful poem, I’m saving it! This is such a gorgeous recipe – fresh and healthy. You photos are fantastic too!

  • What a beautiful salad, I like how you connect food to mindfulness, just taking the time to notice what’s around us. Lovely sentiments on a pretty spring day!

  • Found you through Food 52. You have such a beautiful blog! I had to subscribe. This looks like a great salad. I am going to have to try it.

  • This is right up my alley. Bright, fresh and lovely.

  • Mmmm…that looks amazing! Beautiful and totally spring-y :)

  • I love this twist on a panzanella! The herbs combined with the fennel and asparagus…yum! Very beautiful, too.

  • Just came across your blog– gorgeous!!! I wanna dive right into that salad :)

  • I want to eat this RIGHT NOW!!! Looks so delish! We’re hosting an online seasonal potluck and May is asparagus month. If you’d like to link your recipe we’d love to have you! http://bit.ly/eLlgG2

  • this is the most green and beautiful panzanella i’ve every seen. makes me want to hit the market right NOW! and your photos are so pretty; i like the leek one especially! aloha, andrea

  • lovely use of all of these tasty veggies!

  • Could I use gluten free beard instead or will it taste funny?

  • This panzanella looks amazing! I loveyour photography too. I recently made a spring chopped salad and mentioned your salad in my post. If you get a chance check it out: http://cupsandspoonfuls.com/2014/05/02/spring-chopped-salad-5-spring-salads-for-mothers-day/
    Take care!


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