I survived the hardest semester of my life. Seriously, this time last week I was an angry sad person hating the decision I'd made two years ago to do this whole grad school thing. Things are a bit better now. I found my way back into the kitchen and even made it to yoga tonight. Also, I've become increasingly aware of a feeling of airiness around my shoulders!
It wasn't until around this time last year that I first made a panzanella. I remember thinking whoever thought it was a good idea to take massive amounts of cubed bread, toss it into salad, and call it dinner was freaking genius. This panzanella is filled with spring vegetables and herbs. It's bright and green and somehow both hearty and light. I'm pretty obsessed.
Adapted from: Food52
For the Vegetables:
1 head cauliflower
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 bunch asparagus
juice of half a lemon
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 bunch sugar snap peas, ~ 12oz, trimmed
1/2 cup of peas
2-3 green onions, thinly diced
For the Croutons:
1 multigrain baguette
2 garlic cloves
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
For the Pesto:
1 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup fresh mint
1/2 cup walnuts
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 medium avocado
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cut the cauliflower into bite size florets and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and red pepper flakes (I used 1/2 teaspoon for medium spiciness, but feel free to use less). Lay the cauliflower onto a bake sheet lined with parchment paper.
Meanwhile, trim and discard the tough ends of the asparagus then cut into 1 inch pieces and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and salt + pepper. Place the asparagus on a second sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
Roast the cauliflower for 45-50 minutes until lightly browned on the edges. In the last 15 minutes of cooking, toss the cauliflower, then add the sheet pan of asparagus to the oven. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, toss the snap peas with the asparagus and along with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and pinch of salt.
While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the croutons. First, cut the baguette into one inch cubes. In a large saucepan over medium heat toss the croutons, olive oil, garlic, and a generous sprinkle of salt. Cook until the croutons are lightly browned on the edges, tossing regularly, about 10 minutes.
Lastly, prepare the pesto by combining the basil, mint, walnuts, garlic, lemon juice, avocado and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Puree the mixture until smooth while drizzling in the olive oil. Adjust to taste.
In a very large bowl (seriously, like the largest bowl you have), combine the roasted vegetables, croutons, peas, green onions, and the pesto (I start with about half of the pesto then add more accordingly) and toss. Let sit for 5 minutes or so then serve!
Notes: Refrigerate any leftovers, then an hour or so before eating let it come to room temperature. It will not be good microwaved, but tastes surprisingly great eaten at room temperature on Day 2.
We are officially Chicagoans. I must say packing then unpacking my kitchen was probably one of the most difficult things I've ever experienced. I think between Nate and I we uttered the words "If I have to unpack another (insert expletive here) mason jar I'm going to kill someone" at least a dozen times. But hey, at least all my kitchen stuff is being put to good use?
Parts of living in the city feel seamless; I live five minutes from whole foods and trader joes. Pumpkin is loving the dog friendliness of it all and is getting tons of walks. Everything is so accessible. I could go to a farmer's market 7 days a week if I wanted to. The energy of the city is right outside my door. It's good.
But parts feel more difficult, readjusting to a new space, without jobs, without community, without connection. I attach so much of my identity to that of a yoga teacher, so I wonder who I am if I'm not teaching. I wonder if and when life here will feel normal. I panic when I hear the voice in the back of my head questioning whether or not we've made the best decision. Whether this will ever feel like home.
Then I find a yoga class and even though the teacher is a stranger and the studio is new and I'm in a different city in a different region of the country, I feel my breath and almost instantly I'm brought back home again. What a gift this practice is. That no matter where I am or what I'm doing I can bring myself back. I find more often than not my intention for class is "to come back home to myself". Rumi says "When you feel a peaceful that's when you are near truth". And I think that's beautiful.
One of the last things I made before the we packed up the kitchen were these quesadillas. They are filled with more vegetables than the ones you ate as a kid. And don't worry, asparagus and blueberries may sound like a completely odd pairing but it totally works. I wish I could take all the credit but it's totally a recreation of a quesadilla I had in a restaurant recently. These quesadillas are good, in a funky, super interesting, fresh summery kind of way.
Shaved Asparagus & Roasted Blueberry Quesadillas with Herbed Yogurt
Makes two quesadillas
for the yogurt:
2/3 cup greek yogurt (I use Fage 2%)
1/4 cup finely chopped chives
1 heaping tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
2 small garlic cloves, minced
pinch of salt
2/3 cup fresh blueberries
1 pound asparagus
4 spring onions
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
zest of 1 lemon
large pinch of salt
fresh ground pepper
2/3 cup grated extra sharp cheddar
1/2 cup crumbed goat cheese
Preheat the oven (or toaster oven) to 425 degrees. Line a small baking sheet with parchment. Combine all the yogurt ingredients in a small prep bowl, stir, cover and refrigerate while you prepare the other ingredients.
Cook blueberries on baking sheet for about 5 minutes until some are just beginning to burst. Set aside to cool. Using a vegetable peeler, Y-shaped ones work best, shave the asparagus. Don't worry about making the shavings perfect, they can be different shapes and thicknesses. Toss the shaved aparagus in a bowl with olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper. Dice the green onions, set aside about 1/4 cup for topping, then toss the rest in with the asparagus and combine. Heat a fry pan over high heat. Cook the asparagus for about five minutes until slightly browned. Set aside.
Warm two tortillas at a time in a fry pan. Top one tortilla with half the cheddar and goat cheese. Top the cheese with half the asparagus. To the asparagus with half the blueberries. Then top with the second tortilla. Cook on medium until slightly crispy. To flip, don't risk disaster by transfering quesadilla to a plate. Top with another plate and invert. Finish cooking both sides until crispy and slightly browned. Repeat. To serve, top quesadillas with yogurt, and green onions.