In all honesty, I apologize if this post seems…distracted.
The Way We Were is on and (yes, that means I’m not watching playoff hockey) the sun is dousing my apartment in unnatural light (for a day that’s expected to give way to a week of late April rain) and both are utterly out of my control.
This was was an unofficial cleansing week, where meals are concerned. No, I didn’t devote any portion of my paycheck to have one of those juice cleanse packages delivered to my doorstep. No, I didn’t swear off caffeine or alcohol or trips to Trader Joe’s for snacks (there will always be snacks.) Just made a few minor adjustments.
After any form of vacation it’s difficult to get back into the swing of anything. While I was able to muster up the motivation to take the 7:35 bus into work, I was not able to sustain that type of energy through to dinnertime. I planned ahead for minimal lifting in the kitchen. FYI, by Friday night (when the boyfriend was away at a coworker function) I was back in the kitchen, two-highballs deep and giving new life to the stovetop with a Magic Eraser.
Not all resets have to involve cashew milk.
When in Philadelphia, one eats meat. Lots of perfect meat.
Of course there were cheesesteaks (wit, always, always, wit). There were also copious Italian hoagies and Moroccan lamb stew and mountainous pastrami sandwiches on rye bread sent from above.
This past week then, I could handle an absence of the hearty protein in favor of more greens, more edible leaves, more whole grains and a few extra Minneola tangelos (their season is almost over; start hoarding!)
Missing meat doesn’t mean settling for blandness. Hell no. If I wanted to punish myself then I would’ve stocked up on overpriced green juice in the first place.
No one likes a naked vegetable. And in order to not make salad night feel like I’m being a total snoozefest in my own kitchen, I felt like a homemade dressing (and a simpler crouton alternative) could be the best salvation.
A lot of people talk about having that great back-pocket vinaigrette recipe that you can keep in a Ball jar in the nosebleed shelves of your refrigerator for 10 months without going bad. I opted for something with less of a shelf life, but an inarguably powerful taste that can make even romaine hearts (from a bag) taste a little bit chef-fy.
For the Dressing:
1 c grated Parmesan
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 garlic cloves
2 tbsp dijon mustard
3/4 c olive oil
I have nothing against egg in Caesar dressing, and I know I’m probably consuming it in 85% of restaurant salads. But I just have a nonsensical trust issue with using raw egg in my own kitchen. I digress.
In a food processor or blender, mix the cheese, lemon juice, garlic, mustard and anchovies. As the appliance is running, drizzle in the olive oil. Keep mixing for around 15 seconds after the oil is added to incorporate.
*Note: This dressing is definitely thicker than your run of the mill Hidden Valley variety. I find it easiest to mix this into the entire salad before serving individual portions.
For the Breadcrumbs:
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 shallots, finely chopped
2/3 c panko breadcrumbs
OK, if you’re totally ambitious you could hypothetically make your own bread crumbs with some stale baguette heels and a food processor, but it’s a sin not to have panko on-hand for quick meal upgrades like this.
Add the olive oil to a pan over medium-high heat. Toss in the garlic and shallots, cooking until golden brown (around 2-3 minutes). Stir in the panko and let it toast until golden too, another 2 minutes or so.
Toss the warm breadcrumbs in with the salad and serve (with an extra, fresh baguette, if you so choose.)