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Brunch Panzanella

INGREDIENTS:

3/4 cup thinly sliced almonds

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 bay leaf

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon brandy

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

1/4 teaspoon finely ground sea salt, preferably gray salt

1 large loaf whole-wheat or sprouted bread, about 1 pound

2 pints ripe strawberries, cut into 1/4-inch slices

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon good-quality balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon finely ground sea salt, preferably gray salt

3/4 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup blueberries

1/2 cup lightly packed torn mint leaves

1 cup low fat (or nonfat) vanilla yogurt

 

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until toasted, about 8 to 10 minutes.

While the almonds are toasting, melt the butter in a 10-inch skillet over high heat, and cook until it browns. Add the bay leaf and stand back (it might pop). Lower the heat to medium and add the sugar to the pan and stir. When the sugar has melted, add the brandy and stand back (it might flame). Add the lemon juice. Cook for 15 seconds, then add the orange juice and salt. Stir and cook until the liquid has reduced by half and it has reached a syrupy consistency. You should have about 1/2 cup. Remove the bay leaf.

Using a serrated knife, shave off the thicker parts of the crust. Cut the bread into 1/2-inch cubes. You should have about 8 cups. Place the bread in a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup of the brown butter syrup. Spread the bread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until golden and crispy on the outside and still chewy inside, 15 to 20 minutes, turning occasionally for even coloring.

Put the strawberries in a medium bowl. Add the sugar, lemon juice, vinegar, and salt and mix well. Allow to macerate for 5 to 10 minutes. 

Place the raisins in a small bowl. Cover with hot water. Allow the raisins to plump for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the fruit. 

Place the bread in a large bowl. Add remaining brown butter syrup, the almonds, raisins, blueberries, and mint. Toss well. To serve, spoon some strawberries in each bowl. Spoon some panzanella beside the strawberries. Spoon some vanilla yogurt on to cover the strawberries.

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