This is the first in a series of Harvest Salads, and is meant to optimize what is in your garden or what strikes your fancy at the Farmer’s Market or Supermarket. It also happens to be one of those ‘Cooking By The Seat Of Your Pants’ recipes we love to make. The ingredient list provided are just suggestions, so no quantities are listed. The idea here is: effortless, fast, and fun. Oh, and delicious too. It’s summer after all – let’s go a little easy on ourselves.
And then there are the Parmesan Croutons. This quite possibly could be one of the easiest recipes you will ever make, but it never ceases to amaze anybody I serve it to. Why? Simple. It has only one ingredient, which happens to be cheese. It’s really hard to find a cheese hater out there, and even more difficult to find a melted cheese hater. I love horsing around with this recipe. For starters, you don’t have to use super expensive Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. My favorite way to make them is to use a combination of cheeses, and love a combination of Asiago, and Provolone. Often I will throw in a little bit of Sharp Cheddar too – It just depends on what is hanging around the house when the mood strikes.
A Jelly Vinaigrette recipe is included because it happens to be my favorite – not to harsh with vinegar, but more smooth and fruity. This means it will encourage you to eat more salad, and that’s a very good thing. Let’s hop right on over to the blog and check it out!
First, I have a confession to make. I love salads of any kind. I love making salad, and most of all I love eating salad. In our household, we eat a huge (and I’m not kidding – we fill a dinner plate) salad every night before diving in to our main course. The ingredients change every evening depending on what’s in the fridge or what’s come from the garden, but most of the time it’s a lettuce or chopped red cabbage base with tons of fresh or leftover steamed veg on top. We often have fresh fruit nearby to add to the whole works because it gives a nice, sweet balance to the greens, and you’ll see plenty of fruit in this salad. All that being said, let’s build this baby!! First off, get all your stuff prepped.
Keep in mind different colors, textures, and shapes. It’s fun! I also picked a bunch of fresh herbs out of the garden, and snipped some edible flowers just for the heck of it. No rules here – just go with your gut. I had to thin the beets, so yanked out some of these little guys. Baby beets can be a little bitter just so you know, but if you soak them in cold water for awhile it tames the flame.
Time to assemble: Level #1 will be the lettuces, and in this case they are also from our garden. This is followed by carrots, red onion, sugar snap peas, carrots both julienned and ribboned (just use a vegetable peeler).
Layer #2 up next: Up come the sliced beets, radishes, and fresh herbs.
Level # 3 is where the fresh fruit and edible flowers come in. We went with raspberries, diced mango, and whole dark cherries. Note to self: It’s a good idea to keep the softer stuff on top for obvious reasons.
Add the Parmesan croutons just at the last minute and drizzle with Jelly Vinaigrette. Or hold the dressing to the side and let everybody have as much as they want.
Hope this gives you some ideas for your next salad experience. Thanks so much for reading our blog – we really appreciate it! xoxoxo
- FOR THE SALAD
- Any variety you choose of fresh lettuce (s)
- Fresh herb leaves (oregano, basil, dill fronds, marjoram, etc.)
- Green onions, cut on the bias
- Small beets, thinly sliced
- Beet thinnings, trimmed and sliced lengthwise
- Radishes, thinly sliced
- Sugar Snap Peas, cut lengthwise
- Edamame or Frozen Peas, thawed
- Carrots, sliced, shredded, or julienned
- Sliced or diced Mango
- FOR THE JELLY VINAIGRETTE
- 1-cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons cherry balsamic vinegar (or fruit flavor of your choice)
- 1 heaping tablespoon cherry jam or other berry jam
- Salt and pepper to taste
- FOR THE PARMESAN CROUTONS
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Use as little or as much as you want, keeping in mind that each cracker uses about 2 tablespoons of cheese.
- FOR THE SALAD
- Wash, cut, and otherwise prepare all of the vegetables, fruit, and herbs as you would like. Arrange on platter
- FOR THE VINAIGRETTE
- In a 2-cup jar or small bowl, combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, jam, salt and pepper. Shake
- well until all ingredients are combined
- Gradually add olive oil while machine is running until emulsified.
- FOR THE PARMESAN CROUTONS
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Grate the cheese by hand or use a food processor. If using a food processor, cut the cheese into about 1-inch cubes and process in small batches or you will run the risk of getting the processor blades stuck in cheese. This is not pretty.
- Drop the grated cheese in about 2 tablespoon scoops onto a cookie sheet that has been well greased, or on parchment paper, or on a Silpat mat. Note: A coffee measuring spoon works well for this since it just happens to be 2 tablespoons.
- Pat the cheese down to form a round, cracker shape.
- Bake the crackers for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling fiercely and starting to turn color to a more golden shade.
- Remove from oven and let cool on the baking sheet. When cool, you can serve immediately as crackers. To make croutons, just crumble the crackers into fairly large pieces.
- TO SERVE
- Arrange all ingredients on a platter, starting with the lettuces and buiding from there.
- Add Parmesan crackers.
- You can either drizzle with the Berry Vinaigrette at this time or just pass it so everybody can take as much as they want.
- COOKS NOTES:
- This recipe almost begs for accompaniments to add some extra creamy and salty or savory notes. You might think about spiced nuts, roasted pumpkin seeds, some Gorgonzola, blue, or feta cheese, some pickled beets or onions, etc.
- When choosing your cheese(s) for the Parmesan Croutons, the only thing you want to be careful about is the use of super moist cheeses like Mozzarella or Jack. I think that would make the crackers spread too much, unless you used it in combination with mostly a drier cheese. Just thinking… If you happen to have a guest or family member who cannot eat dairy, you might try this out with one of the non-dairy cheeses out there. I haven’t, so just suggesting at this point.
- If you have any Parmesan crackers left over (ha ha) just keep them in a zip lock bag in the refrigerator. These crackers can also be frozen.