fava bean panzanella

fava bean panzanella

Is the low carb faze behind us enough that we can talk about bread salad? I know a lot of people still cringe at the idea. To be fair though, the first time I had it, I also cringed.

I was living and working in a winery in Italy, and one weekend we went on a bicycling tour through the hills of Chianti. There’s no way I’ll be able to get pity here, but it was really hot that day and the hills are a lot bigger in real life than in the pictures. We stopped halfway for lunch at a winery, and the meal started with bread, progressed to soggy bread salad, peaked at some sort of heavy pasta dish, and ended with biscotti. I was so packed full of carbs and so exhausted, I could hardly keep my eyes open let alone bike another 18 km home.

It took me almost ten years to return to the idea of panzanella. If I was going to eat it again, I wanted one that wasn’t soggy, didn’t taste like stale bread and old vegetables, and didn’t put me in a carb coma. I finally found the perfect template in Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat.

She makes her own croutons that are craggily, salty and rich with olive oil to get past the stale bread hurdle. I changed the rest from there, using fava beans, mint and cucumber chunks for a super fresh, spring centered meal. What I really love about this panzanella is that it doesn’t cower to the delicacy of fava beans, like a lot of recipes do. This stays substantial and flavorful, true to any good panzanella, and it’s accented by the tender morsels of favas. I especially love the crispy, chewy croutons that are just beginning to soften with the dressing, the salty bits of feta, and the high ratio of vegetables. Going back to that hot Italian day, I’m sure I still would’ve had a major carb coma with this, but I wouldn’t have been nearly as annoyed about it because this panzanella is so fresh and so worth it.

fava bean spring panzanella

fava bean panzanella

serves 6 | inspired by Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat


sourdough croutons

  • 1 lb loaf sourdough bread, day old is fine

  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • kosher salt

  • freshly ground black pepper

red wine vinaigrette

  • 1/2 shallot, halved, peeled and thinly sliced

  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

fava bean panzanella

  • 2 cups fava beans (from 4 lbs pods)

  • 1 batch of sourdough croutons, recipe above

  • 1 english cucumber, diced

  • 4 oz feta, crumbled into large chunks

  • red wine vinaigrette, recipe above

  • 1 bunch mint

fava bean bread salad


sourdough croutons

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside.

  2. Using a serrated knife, remove crust from the loaf of bread then cut into 1 thick slices. Cut the slices into 1 inch thick strips then tear the strips into 1 inch sized pieces.

  3. Toss the torn bread with olive oil and season with 1/2 tsp salt and black pepper and spread out evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Avoid overcrowding the sheet and, if needed, use a second sheet to make sure the croutons get crispy and browned rather than steamed. Bake for 15- 18 minutes, or until golden brown and crunchy.

  4. Let the croutons cool on the baking sheet until needed.

red wine vinaigrette

  1. In a bowl or glass measuring cup, macerate the shallot in the red wine vinegar for about 10 minutes. Use a fork to drain and remove pickled shallot and set aside. Whisk in extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper until thick and emulsified. Taste and adjust with more salt and pepper if needed then set aside.

fava bean panzanella

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and fill a medium sized bowl with ice water for blanching.

  2. Break open the fava bean pods. Slide your finger along one side, opening the seam as you would a zipper. If a pod doesn't open easily, use a paring knife and slit the bean pod open, exposing the spongy insides and the beans. Remove the beans and discard the pods.

  3. Salt the boiling water and blanch the fava beans for about 30 seconds. With a slotted spoon, remove the beans from the hot water and immediately plunge into a bowl filled with iced water to stop the cooking.

  4. With your fingers or a paring knife, remove the top of the shell of a fava bean and squeeze the other end to pop out the bean. Discard the outer skin and place the shelled fava beans in a large bowl.

  5. Add cooled croutons, cucumber, pickled shallots, and two-thirds of the red wine vinaigrette and toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and more dressing if needed. Tear mint into small pieces and toss in the salad, along with the feta, just before serving, to prevent leaves from discoloring and feta from breaking up too much. Salad is best served immediately, at room temperature.

Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

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