I've had my eyes peeled for a protein with which to pair this panzanella from Deb at the smitten kitchen, and when Mom called to tell me she'd scored lobster tails at Central Market on sale, I thought it would be perfect. Something light and seasonal to accompany the lobster as opposed to the tired old sides of corn and potatoes.
If I had been cooking out of my garden, I would definitely have substituted blanched English or blackeyed peas for the cannelini beans, and probably green beans for the asparagus (did you know you can't even harvest asparagus the first year after planting? I can hardly wait 6 weeks for my vegetables to be ready).
The panzanella turned out even better than I expected, although I did make a few changes. Given the opportunity, I always opt for roasting or grilling vegetables over cooking them in water, as the recipe suggested (and the grill was hot for the lobster, anyway). I think the flavor of the leeks in particular benefited from a nice light char.
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 cups day-old bread, cubed (I used fresh, and it was fine)
6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Juice of a lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 lb asparagus
1 can of cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
8 small lobster tails
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and get your grill going on medium-high.
Start with the butter. In your food processor (I use a little mini-prep), pulse the butter, olive oil, shallot, garlic, cayenne, and a pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper until finely chopped. Split your lobster tails in half down the back and slather each half with your spicy butter. Allow them to sit at room temperature for at least half an hour before putting on the grill. You will have too much butter - I just microwaved the rest until completely liquid and drizzled the cooked tails before serving.
Trim the bottom root (don't take the whole thing off - you need to leave some root on for it to stay together) and dark green ends off the leeks, then cut them in half lengthwise. Under running water, rinse out any sand and dirt between the leaves. Trim the tough bottom ends off the asparagus and season the asparagus and leeks with kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. Grill on medium-high heat until charred and lovely, 6 or 7 minutes. I delegated this to my Grill Master Extraordinaire while I got the rest of the panzanella together.
Slice and cube your bread, then toss with your finely chopped garlic, Parmesan cheese and olive oil, as well as a pinch kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Spread into a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 400 for 5 minutes, give them a good mix through with a spatula, then bake another 5 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the red onion, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, and Dijon. Once off the grill, give your leeks and asparagus a rough chop and toss them along with the cannelini beans into the dressing. Wait to fold in the bread until just before serving so it doesn't get soggy.
Grill the lobster tails, shell side down, for 3 minutes. Flip, and grill 2 minutes more. Drizzle with the remaining butter, and plate.
Serves 4, takes a little under an hour, if you're cleaning the kitchen as you cook.