Crisp greens are combined with asparagus, fava beans, celery, spring onions, watermelon radish, and croutons in this celebration of spring. Asparagus and Fava Bean Panzanella Salad is ideal for your brunch menu.
Tossed with a bright lemon and dill vinaigrette, the croutons soak it up. Dollops of rich herb-infused ricotta complete this grand salad that will soon become a favorite.
Secrets to a good salad
I believe there are keys to a successful salad. Let's face it, there is nothing worse than a limp and greasy pile of wilted lettuce.
- Cold Ingredients - All the vegetables should be cold to help preserve the crunch you expect when taking a bite.
- Texture - Add an assortment of ingredients to add texture to a salad. In this panzanella salad recipe, celery adds a crisp bite, fava beans add a meaty and creamy texture, and croutons add crunch. A variety of lettuces can add textures that range from soft butter lettuce to hearty romaine.
- Tang - Nothing brightens up a salad more than the acidity of vinegar, lemon juice, or mustard.
- Salt and Pepper - A little salt and pepper in the right places makes a big difference. Season the lettuce. You will notice how much better the salad tastes if you remember this step.
- Variety - A variety of ingredients helps to keep things interesting. Don't limit yourself to just tomatoes, shredded carrots, and cucumbers. Try nuts, seeds, dried fruit, or different types of cheese.
Salad prep tips
Here are a few steps to help prepare the Asparagus and Fava Bean Panzanella Salad. Many of the preparations for this salad can be done ahead of time. If you are having guests, toss the salad with the vinaigrette just before serving.
- Dry the croutons. Maybe you have stale bread that you can use for croutons. If not, dry the bread in the oven for about 10 minutes at 325 degrees. I tear the bread into irregularly shaped pieces. It adds a little interest.
- Clean the lettuce. Rinse the greens in cold water. If you have a salad spinner, remove as much water as possible. You can lay the greens on paper towels to let them drain.
- Refrigerate. Once the greens have been rinsed, place them in the refrigerator. The crisp lettuce will have structure and will almost stand up in a bowl.
- Cut all the vegetables. Slice the celery, spring onions, and watermelon radishes. Cut the asparagus into 2-inch pieces.
- Par cook vegetables. Blanch the asparagus just for 1 minute so that it still has snap but some of the rawness has been removed. The fava beans will need some additional prep which is detailed below. Use an ice bath to set the green color of the veggies and to stop the cooking process.
Preparing fava beans
Fava beans add a creamy and meaty texture to the salad. They have a mild flavor and a bright color that dresses up the salad.
To prepare the beans, you need to first open the pod to reveal the interior. Remove the fibrous string that runs along the side of the pod. Pull at the stem to loosen the string the length of the pod. This will make it easier to open the pod to reveal the beans inside. Remove the beans - these will need to be blanched.
You may notice that there is a white coating on the beans. Blanching will make it easier to remove this waxy coating.
After removing the asparagus, add the fava beans to the boiling, salted water for 45 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and immediately plunge the beans into an ice bath. Once they are cold, you can peel the white skin revealing a bright green bean underneath.
All the salad components are tossed with a bright and herby vinaigrette.
- Minced garlic is integral to the vinaigrette but I am not always a fan of the raw taste in salads. Combine the garlic with olive oil and microwave for 30 seconds. Let it cool off while you prep the other vinaigrette ingredients.
- Chop 2 teaspoons of fresh dill.
- Zest one lemon but only juice one half. You should have about 3 tablespoons of lemon juice.
- You can either use a glass jar to shake the vinaigrette or a whisk to combine it in a bowl.
- Combine the dill, lemon zest, and juice with 2 tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar. This adds just a touch of sweetness to play off the tangy citrus.
- If using the jar, add the garlicky olive oil to the other ingredients, put the lid on, and shake until emulsified. If using a whisk, add the oil in a slow steady stream as you continually stir until combined.
Combine the salad
I like to combine the salad in a large bowl, tossing the ingredients gently. This helps to coat the croutons in the vinaigrette, letting them soak it up. Add some herbs for freshness and another layer of flavor. Dill is so tender, parsley has some texture.
When serving the salad, I like to dollop homemade ricotta cheese among the veggies. This herb-infused, fresh and creamy cheese provides some richness to the salad. A little indulgent touch!
If you are looking for Mother's Day brunch ideas, this Panzanella salad recipe is a great way to add some interest to your menu. Here is a way to spoil a Mom in your life, a salad worthy of them.
- Here is a recipe for herb-infused ricotta cheese - https://tenpoundcakecompany.com/herbed-ricotta-and-veggie-toast
- You can use edamame, even frozen as a substitution for fava beans.
- You can always double the vinaigrette recipe if you like the croutons to soak up a lot of the vinaigrette.
Asparagus and Fava Bean Panzanella Salad
- 1 sheet pan
- 1 medium bowl
- 1 saucepan
- ½ pound bread (French, ciabatta, or sourdough - whatever you prefer) approximately 226 grams
- ½ pound fava beans (209 grams)
- 25 stalks asparagus (2 cups /7.6 ounces/214 grams)
- 3 stalks celery (1 cup/3.3 ounces/94 grams)
- 3 spring onion (½ cup/1.7 ounces/47 grams)
- 1 watermelon radish
- 16 ounces assorted salad greens (300 grams)
- dill, parsley sprigs
- salt and pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice (juice from ½ lemon)
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
- 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 325°
- Tear bread into irregularly shaped chunks. Place on a sheet tray and place in the oven for approximately 10 minutes. The bread may need to be tossed halfway through baking so that all surfaces get dried out. Remove from the oven when the croutons feel dry but not too hard.
- Wash the lettuce and then refrigerate while you prepare the other ingredients.
- Start to boil water in a medium saucepan.
- Have an ice bath in a medium-sized bowl ready.
- Cut the asparagus spears into 2-inch pieces.
- Peel the fava beans. Start at the top of the bean and pull at the stem so that a fibrous string can be removed from the side of the pod.
- Open the pod and remove the beans.
- Add a good amount of salt to the boiling water - about 2 tablespoons.
- Add the asparagus to the boiling water and blanch for 1 minute. Remove the asparagus from the pan and plunge into the ice bath to stop cooking.
- Remove the asparagus from the ice bath onto a paper towel lined plate to drain.
- Add the fava beans to the boiling water. Blanch for 45 seconds.
- Remove the beans from the boiling water and add to the ice bath.
- Once the fava beans are cold, remove from the ice bath. Peel the beans by removing the white skin, revealing the bright green bean.
- Cut the celery into ¼-inch slices.
- Cut the spring onions into thin slices.
- Slice the watermelon radish into very thin slices.
- Combine the minced garlic and 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a small bowl.
- Microwave the garlic and olive oil for 30 seconds until the oil is warm. This is to remove the raw taste of the garlic.
- Combine the lemon juice, lemon zest, white balsamic vinegar, and dill in a small bowl. Add the salt and pepper to the mix.
- When the salt has dissolved in the vinegar mix, whisk in the olive oil and garlic. Mix until the vinaigrette is emulsified.
Combine salad ingredients
- In a large bowl, add the salad greens. Make sure to salt and pepper the lettuce with a pinch of each. Toss in the prepared vegetables, and croutons. Add the sprigs of dill and parsley to the bowl.
- Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and mix all the ingredients together. Continue to toss so that the croutons get coated with the vinaigrette.
- Lastly, top the salad with dollops of homemade herb-infused ricotta cheese. Serve immediately.