My friend, Pooh, told me about this salad that she and her daughter tried making for dinner one night. It was from a Williams Sonoma cookbook and it sounded really good so I decided that I would try it, too. The salad ingredients were delicious, but I didn’t care too much for the dressing so I altered it to come up with a creamy dressing that was more to my liking. The family liked it better with my dressing, too.
BLT SALAD (Serves 4)
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
8 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups croutons, homemade or store bought
½ cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Spread out the bacon pieces on a rimmed baking sheet.
Bake the bacon pieces until crisp, about 12-15 minutes.
When the bacon pieces are ready, remove them from the oven and transfer to paper towels to drain and cool.
Make the dressing by combining mayonnaise, lemon juice, parmesan cheese, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper in a bowl, and blending until well-combined.
Place the lettuce, tomatoes, bacon, and croutons into a large salad bowl.
Drizzle with dressing and toss to mix well.
VARIATION: You could make a BLTA salad, as pictured below, by adding one avocado to the recipe. Cut the avocado into cubes, squeeze a little lemon juice over the cubes to keep them from darkening, and then toss the avocado into your salad. Yum!
[Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Cooking Together, by Erin & Tatum Quon (Oxmoor House, 2009)]
Croutons are cubes of bread that have been coated in butter or oil and then baked or fried until crisp. They’re wonderful sprinkled on soups or salads, or used as a topping for casseroles. You can buy ready-made croutons from the grocery store but why bother when homemade croutons are a hundred, no, a thousand times better and are sooo easy to make?
They can be seasoned in a variety of ways. In place of garlic powder, you could use anywhere from ½ to 2 teaspoons of italian seasoning, herbes de Provence, dried dill, Greek seasoning, chili powder, curry powder, fresh cracked black pepper, or whatever seasoning strikes your fancy. You could make parmesan croutons by adding ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese to the butter, or make fresh cheese croutons using cheddar, swiss, gruyere, emmentaler, or asiago by sprinkling 1 cup or so of the grated cheese over the croutons halfway through baking.
These garlic butter croutons are my family’s favorite. They’re so good and smell divine while they’re baking. It’s all I can do to keep the fam from gobbling them all up before dinner! Feel free to use fresh garlic instead of garlic powder if you like. The garlic powder just makes it super quick and easy to do, but fresh garlic is equally delicious.
HOMEMADE GARLIC BUTTER CROUTONS
1 loaf (about 1 lb.) french or italian bread or texas toast
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, melted
1½ Tbsp. granulated garlic or garlic powder
½ tsp. garlic salt, optional (we like a little salt on our croutons, but this is completely up to you – feel free to omit the salt if you like)
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
With a serrated knife, cut bread into ¾ to 1-inch cubes.
Combine melted butter, granulated garlic, and garlic salt (if using) in a gallon-size ziploc bag.
Quickly add bread cubes to bag and seal well.
Shake like mad till bread cubes are completely coated with garlic-butter mixture.
Spread bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet.
Bake about 15 minutes or until golden and crispy.
Cool completely and store in an airtight container.
Make sure to use a good, sturdy bread. A light, airy loaf will just turn soggy. This is better made with stale bread so try to purchase your bread a day or two before you plan to make the croutons so the bread will have a chance to dry out a little.
If you’d rather use fresh garlic instead of garlic powder, finely mince 4 cloves of fresh garlic and use that in place of the garlic powder.
Use real butter and not margarine. Margarine has a high water content and could turn your croutons soggy. Also, my family loves the butteriness (is that a word?) of these croutons but if it seems like too much butter for you, just cut the amount down to half a cup.
I learned to make this soup many years ago from a co-worker of my best friend, Gigi. This recipe is so good. It’s one of my family’s favorite soups. It’s easy to make and uses jarred red peppers so you don’t have to go through all the work of roasting and peeling fresh red peppers….. unless you want to. I really like the jarred fire roasted peppers from Trader Joe’s, but you could use your favorite grocery store brand. Depending on the size of your jars, you might end up with a little bit more or a little bit less peppers than what you’d get from 3 jars of Trader Joe’s brand, but don’t worry about it. If you’re more or less close to 36 ounces, the soup will turn out fine. Oh, one other thing! You have to serve this soup with my homemade garlic butter croutons (the recipe can be found here). They’re simple to make so don’t skip it! The croutons really give the soup that added oomph!