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Croutons & My Favorite Simple Vinaigrette

September 9, 2010

homemade croutons, fresh out of the oven

My little snail chicken has flown the roost!

That’s right, everyone, Francesco is in China for a few days and I’m spending my time having wild orgies, experimenting with drugs and watching hours and hours of America’s Next Top Model reading books, scrubbing the bathroom, taking the dog for endless walks and making myself healthy, mindless, eat-in-front-of-the-computer-screen meals. Okay, maybe only the last one is true, but I’m making sure it’s not as bad as it sounds. Especially when what’s on the computer is the 458th cycle of America’s Next Top Model, which, despite it’s incredible ability to be repetitive, never fails to please.

That’s pretty much exactly how I feel about my big one-bowl-wonder salad. Repetitive, maybe; delicious, definitely. I just fill up a bowl with everything I can find, though the roster usually looks a little something like this, give or take a few ingredients:

various greens, chopped tomatoes, shredded smoked chicken or smoked tuna, fresh mozzarella or Bulgarian feta, chopped hardboiled egg, butter beans or chick peas, fried bacon if I’m patient, homemade croutons and a nice, bitey mustard vinaigrette.

One constant is the addition of homemade croutons made from whatever is leftover from a batch of no-knead bread, but you can use whatever bread you have, stale or not. They are so perfectly crunchy and stay that way in Tupperware for weeks.

ready for the oven

Another constant is the vinaigrette, which I looooooove and Francesco, being Italian (and thus being born with an unmatched disdain of the French), won’t touch. He likes his salads dressed with nothing but extra virgin olive oil and salt, so don’t even get NEAR him with that bottle of ranch. Unless you want to see a snail move really, really fast. And attack.

But I digress. Both of these things could not be easier to make, but a little inspiration never hurt anyone, right?

So next time you find yourself with no desire to cook and a few hours to kill watching mind-numbing streaming TV shows? I hope this post inspires you to whip up a batch of croutons and a bit of vinagrette, and pour them all over a massive everything-but-the-kitchen-sink salad. It will keep things more interesting than America’s Next Top Model ever could.

printable recipe (for croutons and vinaigrette)

HOMEMADE CROUTONS

Use any kind of bread you want to finish, though it works best with a good-quality country-style loaf. Also, feel free to use whatever dried herbs you like. They keep for at least 3 weeks in a tupperware container.

bread, cut into 1/4″ cubes (make them smaller than you think or risk drowning out ANTM with the sounds of your crunching)

olive oil

salt

dried herbes de provence and caraway seeds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Line a baking tray (or two, depending on how many you’re making) with tin foil. To easily coat the bread cubes with oil, salt and spices, combine everything in a large bowl and toss with tongs. You want enough olive oil to coat but not soak each cube, and probably two or three big pinches of salt.

If you don’t want to dirty a separate bowl, just coat the tin foil-lined tray with olive oil, put the bread cubes on top, sprinkle generously with salt and dried herbs and use a spatula to toss to coat, adding more oil on top if necessary.

Bake croutons in preheated oven (with the convection fan on if you’ve got one) for 10-15 minutes, or until they are turning golden brown. Remove from oven and store in Tupperware. Allow to cool before sealing and storing.

vinaigrette, shaken in the mustard jar

for printable recipe, see above

MY FAVORITE VINAIGRETTE

This is textbook. My dad usually adds sugar, but I don’t see the need. You can also add finely diced onion, minced garlic or minced parsley for something fancier, but, again I don’t see the need. It’s so good as is.

FOR ONE SERVING:

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp smooth dijon mustard

3 tsp balsamic vinegar

3 tsp extra virgin olive oil

In a medium bowl, whisk all ingredients together with a fork until creamy.

If you want, you can use these proportions and make a large batch in a jar by shaking vigorously. Refrigerated it will last indefinitely. I always make it in the mustard jar when the mustard is about to run out.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 9, 2010 12:39 am

    My arugula/fig salad that I made earlier for my lunch will be very lonely without those yummy croutons. I’ll have to leave that gorgeous close-up photo on the screen as I eat!

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