Spring has finally arrived in earnest. And in true Ontarian fashion, we’ve skipped spring and have gone straight to summer. Well, not quite. I’m sure we’ll take a quick dip back into depressing temperatures before summer truly arrives. But for the time being, my fellow Torontonians and I are enjoying plus 20°C weather as only sun-starved Canadians can. Pouring ourselves onto packed patios in deeply seasonally-confused outfits. As for me, this surprisingly hospitable weather has inspired some intense salad cravings. I know, not what you’ve come to expect from me. To be fair, I’m craving salads like today’s Prosciutto and Brie Panzanella, so I’m not completely off-brand here.
Have you ever made a panzanella? It’s pretty much the best form of salad in the world. And it’s the best salad in the world because it is a bread salad. And I don’t know about you, but the phrase “bread salad” is pretty much music to my carb-loving ears. Panzanella or panmolle hails from Tuscany. It’s a dish comprised of cubes of stale bread soaked in vinegar and oil. I don’t generally have stale bread because I have zero self-control and can barely imagine a world where bread hangs around long enough to go stale. So I make croutons from fresh-ish bread instead.
Making your own croutons is a super simple process. It takes less than fifteen minutes out of your life and they are so much better than the ones you get out of those dusty boxes. And really that is the word that leaps to my mind when I think of storebought croutons – “dusty”. They’re tough and craggy and they cut up the roof of your mouth. While fresh croutons are crisp on the outside and still have a little chew on the inside.
Plus, you can get creative with the way you season your croutons. Think everything bagel spice or crushed red pepper flakes. The world is your spice rack and the crouton is your canvas. I realize that was a deeply strange sentence. But odd analogies aside, you should be making your own croutons. And all you have to do is cube up the bread of your choice, I used a baguette. Then arrange the cubes on a baking sheet and drizzle them with olive oil. Add the seasoning of your choice, I kept things simple with salt, and give the cubes a toss. Pop the baking sheet in a 400° F oven and toast until golden. Mine took about 10 minutes. That really is it!
Once you’ve got your croutons, it’s time to make the dressing. I went with a double Dijon vinaigrette. But really any vinegar-heavy dressing will do. My vinegar of choice is red wine vinegar. We’ve been having a moment lately. But you could use white wine vinegar, or sherry, or malt. Really any astringent vinegar will do. I like to temper said astringency with a bit of honey, but you could use maple syrup or agave.
Now, for the potentially mind-numbing portion of this recipe – the Brussels sprouts. It’s not the sprouts’ fault. There really isn’t anything mind-numbing about them in particular. It’s the process of shaving them. Use a big boy mandolin for this and I cannot recommend a safety glove enough. Brussels sprouts are small and round, not exactly the ideal shape for maneuvering around a sharp blade. So don a glove and guard your digits.
Once the Brussels sprouts are shaved, most of the work associated with this Prosciutto and Brie Panzanella is done. All you have to do is slice some brie, halve some cornichons, and tear some prosciutto. Then it’s a quick toss with that vinaigrette and you’re off to the races. This brings me to my favorite feature of this recipe. You can and should make this recipe in advance. The Brussels sprouts will not sog-out and the bread will soak up all that delicious dressing. But you should take the salad out of the fridge a good 15 minutes before serving it. Serving this salad fresh-from-the-fridge cold is not the move.
So that’s pretty much everything you need to know about this Prosciutto and Brie Panzanella with Cornichon. Honestly, this recipe couldn’t be easier. A blissfully simple salad that’s positively made for spring-worshipping carb obsessives, like me.
Prosciutto and Brie Panzanella with Cornichon
- 1 Large baking sheet
- 1 mandolin
- 1 multi-grain baguette cut into cubes
- ¼ cup + 2 tbsp olive oil divided
- 1 tsp kosher salt divided
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard heaping
- 1 tbsp whole-grain Dijon mustard heaping
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp honey
- 2½ cup Brussels sprouts shaved
- 3-4 radishes julienned
- ½ cup cornichons halved
- 125g (4.5oz) brie sliced
- 6-7 slices proscuitto di parma torn into bite-size pieces
- wild violets optional
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.
- Place the baguette cubes on the baking sheet and drizzle them with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Sprinkle them with half of the salt and toss them with your hands to ensure they're evenly coated.1 multi-grain baguette, ¼ cup + 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp kosher salt
- Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Set them aside to cool.
- In a small bowl whisk to combine the garlic, the mustards, vinegar, honey, and the remaining salt and olive oil. Set the dressing aside.3 cloves garlic, 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, 1 tbsp whole-grain Dijon mustard, ¼ cup red wine vinegar, 1 tbsp honey, 1 tsp kosher salt
- Place the Brussels sprouts in a large bowl. Add the croutons, radish, and cornichon. Pour the dressing over top and toss to coat. Let sit for a minimum of 10 minutes to soak. **2½ cup Brussels sprouts, 3-4 radishes, ½ cup cornichons
- Transfer the sprout mixture to a platter and top with the brie and prosciutto. Garnish with wild violets, if desired, and serve immediately.125g (4.5oz) brie, 6-7 slices proscuitto di parma, wild violets