The perfect spring-time salad and cooking for catharsis

Spring Asparagus Panzanella

Spring Asparagus Panzanella Salad with Radishes, Eggs and Pecorino

Two weeks ago my Easter plans were pretty loose — mainly revolving around the couch, a cat on my lap and maybe some bubbly in my hand. But things can change quickly. My grandfather, who was six months from his 98th birthday, suddenly became very ill and passed away last Thursday. Now I rarely get overly personal in these posts and I certainly don’t intend this one to get weepy, but I will say it’s been a very difficult week.

Luckily, I live close enough to my grandparents that I visited them as often as I could. And so after I heard the news, I packed up a bag and headed north to see my family. Many family members had made the pilgrimage, first to visit with him, and then to help plan the memorial. This was how I ended up cooking Easter dinner for nine last Sunday.

It was actually the perfect way to spend the day. For me cooking is a peaceful endeavor and it was nice not only to have a distraction but also a sense of purpose. And being surrounded by family as everyone traded stories about my grandfather (and discussed how people get famous from YouTube videos) was undoubtedly the best place to be.

Losing people you love is always hard. It was especially devastating for me to say good bye to the man who taught me to play cribbage, made me learn to use the brakes on my bike (long story!) and walked me down the aisle on my wedding day. But we honor these people with stories, recalling their memories to help continue their legacies.

To lighten things up, I’m going to tell you one of the more amusing stories being passed around over the weekend:

My grandfather had been going blind for quite some time, and during the last 10-15 years, was completely unable to see, but his memory was always impeccable. I’m not too clear on when this took place, but at some point he had a close friend who could see perfectly well, but had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The friend still had his driver’s license, but often got lost, either forgetting where to turn or being unable to recall where he was headed. So in order to continue going to lunch together, the friend would drive while my grandfather navigated, giving him directions entirely from memory.

Terrified yet?

I’m also fairly certain they once narrowly avoided accidentally getting the car on the ferry. So frighteningly unsafe, I know, but the thought still makes me laugh.

Anyways…on to the feast. I brought a ham from work (gotta love being surrounded by meat), picked out a fairly easy potato dish and then, rather last minute, decided to make this Spring Asparagus Panzanella Salad — which stole the show.

Besides the beautiful array of colors, this salad hooked me with its perfect combination of toasted bread pieces, crisp-cooked asparagus and thinly sliced radishes:
Spring Asparagus Panzanella

To balance out the crunchy textures, I added some perfectly boiled eggs (this makes great use of all those leftover Easter eggs!) and a good dose of grated pecorino cheese:
Spring Asparagus Panzanella

Next came a hefty amount of sliced red onions macerated in red wine vinegar for some zing:
Spring Asparagus Panzanella

Finally I tossed it gently with some baby spinach, salt and pepper and a touch of red wine vinaigrette…and voila! This is the type of salad that can cheer you up just looking at it.
Spring Asparagus Panzanella

Spring Asparagus Panzanella

15 thoughts on “The perfect spring-time salad and cooking for catharsis

  1. wow–love how perfectly cooked those eggs are. Gorgeous. Lovely post–your grandfather was very proud of you, I’m sure. And nice job on the impromptu Easter meal for 9!

  2. Your grandfather sounded so fabulous. Good for you! Sorry to hear he has passed on, but stories and great food are a wonderful way to honor him.

  3. Pingback: A Year in the Making: Springtime Sugar Cookie Nests | Attempts in Domesticity

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