Up Your Salad Game…
I really hate croutons. I’ve made them a few times and they are a bit better than the store bought ones that are essentially little bread rocks that are tossed onto salads. At least with the homemade variety you can get your fork into them since they are essentially toasted oil soaked bread chunks that are still a little soft.
It could be that I’m just a klutz at eating salads so that whenever I try to get a crouton onto my fork, it slips and crashes into the plate with enough of a racket that people look up startled from their own meals. I look like a real a-hole who doesn’t know how to eat with any decorum. I do try to use a knife to get the crouton to rest on my fork but it usually falls off halfway to my open gob and lands either on my plate or lap.
It isn’t just croutons that frustrate me. I don’t like any food that is challenging to eat, such as ribs and wings. Both are too messy and require too much effort for some stringy, greasy meat. Yeah. I said it. There are festivals dedicated to these foods but I just don’t get it. The meat from ribs also gets stuck in my teeth. It’s gross enough when corn on the cob gets stuck in my teeth but stingy meat pieces is just grody.
I still do put croutons on Caesar salads now and then but that is because other people like them. Those little bread rocks get left behind on my plate as I hunt out every last bit of bacon.
I do like textural variety in salads. Bits of fruit, some goat cheese, or crunchy bacon if I have time to cook it. This summer I’m all about the crunchy, sweet and savoury praline. The praline stays on my fork long enough to get it in my mouth most of the time. After many muttered curses when I spaz on a shirt I like I have taken to wearing a tea towel when I eat sometimes. Yes, perhaps it is just me and not the aforementioned croutons that are the problem.
The praline is very easy to do but it does require your uninterrupted attention once you have the heat going under the pan. You have nuts, seeds, and sugar in a dry non-stick pan and all three of those items will burn like a SOB and stink up your house.
I make my own simple vinaigrette most of the time but use whatever you like. I’m including my recipe for the dressing as well as the praline today in case you want to attempt to break up with those store bought dressings. Go on, bust out the jam jar and that weird little whisk you thought you’d never use. (By the way – I love my itty bitty whisk)
A simple praline made with nuts and seeds with some seasoning salt. It is a lovely addition to a simple garden salad with a vinaigrette.
3 minCook Time
3 minTotal Time
- 1 tbsp raw sunflower seeds
- 1 tbsp raw pumpkin seeds
- 1 tbsp flaked almonds
- 3 tbsp granulated sugar
- pinch of seasoning salt (flaked sea salt)
- 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 Dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp honey
- 1/3 cup-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper (NOT waxed paper).
- In a small non-stick frying pan (preferably light-coloured so you can see the caramelization easily) add all the ingredients except the seasoning salt. Don't add any oil.
- Heat the pan over a medium-high heat. As the sugar starts to melt, make sure that it is all spread someone evenly using a silicone spatula or similar tool that can handle high heat.
- As the sugar melts and starts to turn amber, it is ok to poke around it all to make sure that it is starting to brown evenly. The sugar will start to melt after only a minute or so. The seeds may make a popping sound, don't be alarmed but this isn't a kid-friendly recipe. Do not walk away from the pan. It goes from a lovely amber to impossibly scorched very quickly.
- The time it takes to turn amber depends on how hot your stove is and your pan. If you are using a darker pan, then watch for bubbling sugar and the smell of caramel if you can't see how dark it is getting. The seeds and almond flakes will also take on a toasted colour so that will also be a signal that the praline is done.
- When it is an even amber colour, take it off the heat and pour it onto the parchment lined cookie sheet. Quickly spread it out as evenly as you can and then sprinkle the seasoning salt over the hot praline.
- Let it cool about 15 minutes or so and then break it up into bite-size pieces with your fingers.
- In a small bowl or jam jar, add the vinegar, salt, mustard, and honey. Whisk it together.
- Slowly pour in the olive oil to the vinegar mixture as you whisk. Keep whisking vigorously for a minute or two until the vinaigrette is emulsified. If you like a tart dressing then only use 1/3 cup of olive oil.
- Serve over mixed baby greens or a similar delicate lettuce with some slice strawberries and crumbled goat cheese.
If the vinaigrette sits for a while it will separate but that is easily fixed by another quick whisk. Also, you could make it in a jam jar with a lid and give it a good shake to mix it up.