Make these spring panzanella and veggie strata recipes for your next brunch at home

Veggie strata and panzanella from Zach Martinucci of Rebel Bread. Photo courtesy of Rebel Bread

Rebel bread founder Zach Martinucci sees bread as a canvas for telling stories through food. Case in point: South Broadway bakery’s popular Nonna G Sourdough tells the story of Martinucci’s late grandmother, Nonna Gloria. “When she died five years ago, I wanted to make a loaf of bread in her honor and memory,” said Martinucci, who is 27. “She’s my Italian grandmother who was my culinary and life inspiration in general, so I made a loaf of bread with all the ingredients she would put in her Sunday roast: roasted garlic, fresh sage, rosemary, salt, pepper and olive oil. making these breads, the bakery smells like its kitchen.”

With the same aim, Martinucci also believes that bread can be a vessel for other tastes. For brunch, that means transformations like making decadent French toast from challah or repurposing day-old sourdough bread into croutons or a bread salad.

Martinucci’s love of food — brunch included — stems from growing up in a family that loved to cook and eat, he says. Food was such an important part of his childhood near San Francisco that he decided to study culinary anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles and later to study professional bread and confectionery at the University of California. San Francisco Baking Institute† Martinucci also gained hands-on experience when his father’s cousin opened a French bakery in the Bay Area.

In 2018 Martinucci decided to start his own business. He moved to Denver and opened Rebel Bread, a bakery with a focus on education and community. “We started teaching classes to connect with people who are just outside the trade of buying bread, but really learning more about the stories and people behind it,” he says.

Today, he runs Rebel Bread’s new pick-up and delivery service called Bread Clublaunched in March 2020 and recently expanded to other bakeries such as Mile High Pie Co. and Moon Raccoon Baking Co. (You can also pick up Rebel Bread’s carby offerings at the retail counter of their production facility on South Broadway, at various coffee shops and retail stores throughout the metropolitan area, at farmers’ markets, and through select CSAs.)

But even with so many projects, Martinucci always makes time for brunch. Below, he shares his recipes for a veggie layer (a hearty dish similar to a bread-soaked frittata) and green and bean panzanella (an Italian-inspired bread salad) that are perfect for whatever spring produce you happen to have on hand.

Vegetables and beans Panzanella

Beans and greens panzanella by Zach Martinucci of Rebel Bread. Photo courtesy of Rebel Bread

⅓ bread of day’s bread
1 pound kale
5 oz. arugula
5-6 radishes
¼ cup fresh mint leaves
1 lb. (1 can) white beans
8 oz. of mozzarella bocconcini (balls)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. salt
juice of 1 lemon

Whisk together the extra virgin olive oil, salt and lemon juice in a bowl. Add more lemon or salt to taste (it should be both sour and salty). Put aside.

Blanch the kale in boiling water for 5-10 minutes until wilted. Drain and set aside. Thinly slice radishes on a mandolin or with a knife; and finely chop the mint. Cut the mozzarella into bite-sized pieces. Drain and rinse the beans. Cut the bread into cubes of up to 1 inch.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients until well blended and coated with the vinaigrette. It should be glossy and feel a little overdressed as the bread will soak up some dressing. If it looks dry, add about ¼ cup of extra olive oil. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (or up to overnight). Let come to room temperature before serving.

Spring Veggie Strata

Veggie layers from Zach Martinucci of Rebel Bread.  Photo courtesy of Rebel Bread
Veggie layers from Zach Martinucci of Rebel Bread. Photo courtesy of Rebel Bread

½ loaf of day-old Rebel Sourdough or 1 loaf of ciabatta
About 1 pound or 1 bunch of asparagus
About 1 pound or 1 bunch Swiss chard
About ¼ cup fresh Italian parsley
4 oz. goat cheese
4 eggs
1 cup of milk
1 tsp. salt

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and salt until blended. Put aside.

Trim about 1 inch from the ends of the asparagus and cut the stems into 1-inch pieces. Blanch in boiling water for four minutes. Drain and set aside.

Remove the stems from the center of the chard leaves and cut the chard into 1-inch ribbons. Blanch in boiling water for a minute. Drain and set aside. You can blanch both vegetables in the same pan. First add the asparagus; after three minutes add the chard; and drain everything after a total of four minutes. Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes. Finely chop parsley. Crumble goat cheese. Once the vegetables are cool to the touch, toss all ingredients into the egg mixture and toss with a spatula until combined. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or up to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Shake the mixture a few times before baking to make sure the eggs are evenly distributed. Pour into a 10-inch round cast iron skillet and press gently to fit. (You can also use a greased nine-by-9-inch or larger baking dish). Bake for 30-40 minutes until the eggs are set. Let cool and serve warm or at room temperature.