Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Yes, I will start off my new blog with something as simple and (seemingly) mundane as crutons. Truth is, I never buy the store bought ones. They are gross. My family does not enjoy salads like I do. I am really the only one who eats them willingly. Crutons, well the crutons I make anyway, are my favorite part of the salad (dressing second of course). Since I am the only one who eats (& thoroughly enjoys) salads, I take great joy in preparing it. I keep lots of ingredients on hand, different cheeses, pecans, dried fruits, flavored oils, vinegars etc. to dress them up.

A note of warning, as you continue to read my posts, you will discover that I am not a "measurer". Most of my cooking is done by eye, smell, taste. You won't find alot of 1/3 cup of this, 2 teaspoons of that. It's not the way I cook. Most of the time I am to busy to slow down to measure. Baking of course does require precise measurement. I am not a baker. You won't see too many baking recipies here, and if there are some, most likely they did not come from me.

So, back to my crutons. Sigh! Just had some today on my salad for lunch. very yummy.
What you need:
Find a good bakery & get yourself a nice sourdough (if poss.) baguette. get it home and cut it into bite sized pieces. (I leave some a bit larger for snacking) un-even pieces. No uniformity here! put the pieces in a large sheet pan and let it sit out on the counter for a day or so. (so they can get stale)
Get some good FRESH garlic. (no little green sprouts please!) break off a few big cloves (for a full baguette i usually do 6) give them a good bash with your knife then throw them in the pan with the bread. (paper and all)
generous sprinkle of salt (kosher or sea please) and pepper
and this is where you can vary. yesterday when I was making these I used some herbs de provence (a wonderful mixture of lavender, rosemary, thyme etc.) I take some in the palm of my hand, crush it a bit with my fingers and sprinkle over the bread & garlic. Then comes the olive oil, a couple glugs and mix everything together with my hands. Then the pan goes into a 325 degree oven. I shake the pan after about 20 minutes. Cook it till the bread starts to get a nice toasty color. The heavenly scent of garlic and the herbs de provence will permiate the house. After they come out of the oven and have had time to cool (just leave them in the pan) I put them in a gallon ziplock bag and stash in the pantry. (throw away the garlic first)
A variance, which I have also done before, instead of using olive oil I have used bacon drippings, go lightly on the salt, and omitted the herbs. I do this when i make spinach salad.

Today was my version of a french tuna salad. Now in a perfect world, when I have better prepared I would get a fresh tuna steak, grill it, slice it and put that on my bed of greens. Today was spontanous, so starkist had to do. (tho I do LOVE the tuna packed in oil, it's hard to find in my tiny town)
so to assemble my salad:
greens, a bag mixture i got from the grocer, butter lettuces, endive, raddico and some other european kinds. A very tasty mixture.
tuna, drained and scattered over the greens
some lightly blanched green beans (just to take that raw taste away)
My lovely crunchy crutons (of course)

the dressing I make in my blender. (I'd bathe in it if i could)
couple cloves of garlic (peel them of course but you can just chuck them in whole)
salt/pepper (always)
some herbs de provence just a few pinches is good
pulse together a few times to combine
add some good aged balsamic vinegar and blend.
then take the lid off the blender (while it is still running) and add some olive oil. I trust you can eyeball this. it should make a nice thick emulsion, a paler color of the vinegar. this i drizzle over the salad & eat.

So that was my lunch on this lovely Wednesday in April.

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