Spring Panzanella with Creamy Avocado Pesto

Spring Panzanella with Creamy Avocado Pesto {vegan} | Kneading Home

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. 

Spring Panzanella with Creamy Avocado Pesto {vegan} | Kneading Home
Spring Panzanella with Creamy Avocado Pesto {vegan} | Kneading Home
Spring Panzanella with Creamy Avocado Pesto {vegan} | Kneading Home
Spring Panzanella with Creamy Avocado Pesto {vegan} | Kneading Home
Spring Panzanella with Creamy Avocado Pesto
Serves 4-6
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. 

Moroccan Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Dressing, Pistachios, & Dates

This is a straight up re-creation from a cauliflower dish I had a couple weeks ago at the new True Food Kitchen in Chicago. It was by far the best thing we ordered that night, and it reminded me so much of the flavors of Morocco. 

Moroccan Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini, Pistachios, and Dates | Kneading Home
Moroccan Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Dressing, Pistachios & Dates | Kneading Home
Moroccan Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Dressing, Pistachios & Dates | Kneading Home
Moroccan Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini, Pistachios, and Dates | Kneading Home
Moroccan Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini, Pistachios, and Dates | Kneading Home

It's pretty simple. Just dry roast a head of cauliflower. While it's cooking you whip up a simple tahini dressing (I used the most treasured sweet paprika I bought in Morocco last summer, but any kind will do). Toast some pistachios in a frying pan until fragrant, chop up some dates, fresh mint and dill and toss everything together. It's technically a side, but we've eaten it for dinner at least twice now, and we're not complaining. 

I love the crunch the toasted pistachios bring to the dish and the tanginess from the dressing is cut beautifully by chunks of sweet dates. The fresh mint and dill lend themselves perfectly to pretending it's not the dead of winter and really lighten everything up. 

Moroccan Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini, Pistachios, and Dates | Kneading Home
Moroccan Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Dressing, Pistachios & Dates
Serves 4 as a side

1 large head of cauliflower
3 tablespoons tahini
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 - 2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon agave (or honey)
3/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 tablespoons warm water
scant 1/4 cup shelled pistachios
4-5 pitted dates
small handful of fresh dill
small handful of fresh mint

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper then coat the bottom of the sheet with a light layer of oil (I used grape seed). 

Cut the cauliflower into bite-size florets, season with salt, then place on the bake sheet and cook for 25-35 minutes until lightly browned around the edges. 

While the cauliflower is cooking prepare the dressing. In a medium bowl, whisk together the tahini, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, agave, paprika, and water. Season with salt and adjust to taste. Heat a small frying pan over medium head and toast the pistachios, tossing frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Dice the dates, and chop the fresh dill and mint.

Remove the cauliflower from the oven and start by tossing with about half the dressing. Then toss with dates, pistachios, and herbs. Season liberally (seriously, that cauliflower can handle it) with salt. Drizzle with the remaining dressing on top and serve.