SPRINGTIME VEGETABLE PANZANELLA WITH MIXED HERB PESTO
For the Panzanella
4 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 baguette, or small loaf, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 Teaspoon pink salt, plus more to taste
1 leek, white and light green parts, cut into thin half moons
1 bunch of asparagus, cut into 1-2 inch sticks
2 1/2 Cups english peas, fresh or frozen
2 large handfuls of snap peas or snow peas, trimmed and chopped in half
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
juice of half lemon
3-4 Cups mixed greens, we used spinach and baby kale
For the Pesto
2 Cups fresh basil, loosely packed
1 Cup fresh mint, loosly packed
1 Cup cilantro, loosely packed
5 springs thyme, stripped
5 Tablespoons walnuts
3 Tablespoons pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
1/2 Cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
pink salt, to taste
For the Bread: Start by making the bread. Over medium heat add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the bread and a pinch of salt and toss the bread so the cubes are evenly coated in the oil. Stirring occasionally, cook for 10 minutes until the bread is light brown and toasty. Set aside in a large serving bowl.
For the salad: Wipe the pan clean. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks, some salt and stir frequently until they start to caramelize. This will take 5 to 7 minutes and they will break down significantly. Be careful to not overcook the leeks, you want them to slowly caramelize.
Once the leeks are cooked, add the asparagus pieces, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Then at the peas and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Taste test and make sure your vegetables are slightly cooked, and not raw.
Add the vegetables to the bowl with the toasty bread. Toss in the snow peas, mixed greens, and add the balsamic, lemon juice and pepper. Let set while you make the pesto.
For the Pesto: For the Pesto: in the bowl of a food processor or vitamix, combine the herbs, nuts, garlic and half of the olive oil. Process until everything is chopped into a paste. Keep the motor running and add in the rest of the olive oil until the pesto is smooth. Add the salt and lemon juice and pulse until incorporated. Taste and adjust if necessary.
Assembly: Add ½ the pesto into the panzanella, and give it a good toss. Then add in the rest, if needed and toss again. I used all the pesto for the salad. Spread amongst plates and enjoy!