This panzanella salad is savory from the garlic and shallots, tangy from the lemon, a bit smokey from the tempeh bacon, a bit herbaceous from the arugula, and with the slightest sweetness from the grape tomatoes. The textures are awesome–crispy tempeh bacon, toasted bread that’s soaked up just a bit of the dressing, so it’s chewy in places, crunchy roasted pistachios, and creamy white beans. And the asparagus, it’s the perfect back-up singer, harmonizing with every element of this dish. It’s some serious wow.
I had an old loaf of ciabatta hanging around, and really, stale bread is the best for this dish. It’s easier to slice into cubes and toasts up quicker. Plus, when you eat it, there’s no indication that the bread was ever a day old. It doesn’t have to be ciabatta. Really, any slightly stale, crusty white bread will work.
You can either use homemade tempeh bacon or use store bought. If you choose to use my recipe, use the “Tempeh Bacon” recipe list and follow direction #1 from my Vegan Cheese Grits with Tempeh Bacon and Greens. It can go straight from marinading into the skillet.
As a variation, brush some olive oil on the bread before slicing into cubes, and put it out on the grill to toast it. Or throw the asparagus on the grill, instead of broiling in the oven.
1 bunch of asparagus, cut into thirds on a bias
5 Tbsp + some to drizzle, olive oil
2 Tbsp + ¼ cup lemon juice
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 loaf of ciabatta bread, cubed
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
½ cup arugula
¼ cup pistachios, roasted with shells removed
½ cup white beans
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
1. Preheat oven to BROIL on HIGH. Line a cookie sheet with non-stick foil or parchment. Spread asparagus in an even layer. Drizzle with olive oil and add 2 Tbsp lemon juice. Move asparagus around, so everything is coated. Sprinkle some salt and grind some black pepper over the top. Broil for 15 minutes in the oven (watching closely, so it does not burn). Remove from oven, flip, and return to oven for 5 more minutes (watching closely once more). Remove from oven, and add asparagus to a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
2. In a large skillet, add 2 Tbsp olive oil, shallots and garlic over low heat. Sauté for 1 minute. Add tempeh bacon, and turn heat up to medium-high. Move tempeh around the skillet constantly to keep it from burning. When it reaches the level of crispness you like (I did mine for ~7 minutes), spread onto a plate lined with paper towels.
3. Add cubed bread to the same skillet that you crisped the tempeh bacon in. Over high heat, drizzle it with some olive oil and constantly move it around until it reaches the level of toastiness you like (I did about 5 minutes). Add to the mixing bowl with the asparagus, add tempeh bacon mixture, and everything else listed in the recipe, including the remaining olive oil and lemon juice. Mix, and serve immediately. This recipe tastes best when just assembled, but can be served at room temperature or cold.