Speaking of gardens, the peppermint is coming back so strong in ours, that I already have a ton to use. I think the thing I miss most during the winter is the color green, so I decided on something with pesto. Pesto doesn't always have to be basil and pine nuts, here I put peppermint and hazelnuts to work. This adaptation of a traditional Panzanella salad is well-positioned to help start things off with an explosion of verdant shades and flavors.
|Don't worry, it's still delicious|
Adapted from Michael Chiarello
Fair warning, this one is easy, yet hard. The steps are simple, but it'll have you running all around the kitchen. Pair this with something simple like cacio e pepe or roast chicken. It can most definitely stand on it's own, too. Update: vegans beware! Wegman's wheat loaf is, in fact, not vegan. I double-checked the ingredients and it contains honey. Feel free to substitute your favorite vegan option. :)
1/2 loaf of day-old bread, cubed
10 tbs extra virgin olive oil, divided
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
1 lb asparagus, trimmed and sliced
1 c fresh peppermint leaves
Juice of 3 lemons
1/2 c hazelnuts, chopped and toasted
1 clove of garlic
5 oz grape tomatoes, halved
2 c fresh arugula
4 scallions, slivered (pale green and white parts only)
Preheat the oven to 350, set a large pot of salted water to boil, and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
|The staff of life, the stuff of salad|
|Way easier than doing it by hand|
In a food processor, combine the peppermint, garlic, hazelnuts, and juice from two lemons (this makes it lighter than using straight-up olive oil). Blend while streaming in 6 tbs of the oil, scrape down the sides, and pulse a but more, yielding a heady, verdant pesto.
Drain the asparagus and toss in a large bowl with the croutons, pesto, arugula, tomatoes and the remaining lemon juice and 2 tbs of olive oil. Garnish with slivered scallions and additional chopped, toasted hazelnuts, if desired.