Kitchen Craft: Croutons (Plus a Caesar Salad Recipe)
2012 is going to be big I tell ya, BIG. Lots of videos and crafty projects are on the horizon. Let's not forget about my office cleaning project which might take me the entire month (or more) to sort through and organize but I'm into sweepingly bold statements this month as the shredder hums through old files and magazines in the background.
I've wiped out the old year and made a list of things to do this year. More croutons. More salads. More writing. Less waiting. That's the short list, anyway.
I'm not sure why more people don't make their own croutons. They are, after all, cubes or slices of bread that are either toasted plain or seasoned with herbs and oil and sometimes cheese. Take any good country-style bread, cut or tear it into bite-size pieces, toss the bread with a garlic, rosemary, and olive oil paste and toast in a 400F oven for 15 minutes. I often make meals out of them. Dips, salads, soups...
I made this Caesar salad (no eggs, Parmesan, or anchovies in sight) just before the holiday rush and I have to tell you, I can't put my salad fork down.
Even at breakfast.
Here's to the start of a new yearmay we all sit down, write, and eat good food. Cheers!
Now for the crouton recipe...
Garlic Rosemary Croutons
2 garlic cloves (peeled and smashed)
1 sprig fresh rosemary (leaves removed and stem discarded)
1/4 cup or more extra-virgin olive oil
1 loaf good country-style bread (fresh or day-old bread works best)
Preheat oven to 400F.
Cut off the crusts of bread and cut or tear into bite-size pieces. Pound 2 cloves of garlic along with the rosemary leaves to a paste in a mortar, then drizzle in the olive oil. Toss the cut pieces of bread in a bowl with the garlic rosemary oil.
Spread the cubes of bread evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes. Halfway through the baking time, shake the pan a bit to roll the cubes around and to make sure they color evenly. If you like your toasty croutons a bit crunchier, leave them in for another 5 to 10 minutes—just keep an eye on them so them don't become teeth crackers.
the salad dressing...
Yield about 2 cups of dressing
6 ounces (about 3/4 cup) silken tofu
1/4 cup raw cashew nuts
3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon capers, drained
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon white miso paste
1/2 tablespoon pure maple syrup or honey
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
Combine the first ten ingredients (everything but the oil and salt and pepper) in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Turn the machine back on and slowly add the oil in a thin stream. Continue to blend until the dressing is emulsified, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
and finally, the salad. It seems like work to build a salad like this, but in truth, once the dressing and croutons are made, you'll have a readymade meal for the next week or so. Not bad for a little prep work, I say.
Yield 2 servings
1 small head romaine lettuce, chopped
Place the lettuce and a handful or two (or more!) of croutons in a large salad bowl. Add a few spoonfuls of dressing to taste (you want enough to coat the lettuce without drowning in it) and toss well to coat. Garnish with caperberries and serve right away.
(This recipe for Caesar Salad takes inspiration from Tal Ronnen's excellent book The Conscious Cook).