Like you, I have never understood people who only eat salads. I like them–a lot–but I also need heartier fare, like chili and pizza and deeply chocolatey cookies. That said…I also eat a lot of salads.
I find it unfortunate that salad is an afterthought on so many tables. Wilted greens, carrot rounds, and a bottle of storebought Italian dressing do little to improve a meal. It takes so little thought and love to elevate a salad to delicious heights. A careful choice of greens, a few toppings sprinkled like precious gems, an old jar glistening as you shake a freshly-made slick of dressing. Those are the salads I prefer.
Winter in Seattle means short, dark days. “Sunbreaks,” the local term for momentarily clear skies, are reported in the weather news. (Did you know that? It’s true.) We have to take our sunshine where we can get it. This salad is a great place to start.
To make this Romaine Salad with Handmade Croutons and Bright Lemon Vinaigrette, first preheat your oven to 375. Cut or tear a few slices of bread into small (1/2″ to 3/4″) pieces and toss them on a baking sheet with a Tbsp. of olive oil and a minced garlic clove, then bake about 8 minutes, until crisp and golden. Set your croutons aside to cool. In a jar, combine and then shake together the zest of one lemon plus 3 Tbsp. lemon juice, 1/4 tsp. salt, another minced clove of garlic, and 5 Tbsp. olive oil. Wash and dry a head of crisp Romaine lettuce, then slice it into 1/2″ ribbons and transfer to a big salad bowl. Top lettuce with a handful of pitted and torn Kalamata olives and a few spoonfuls of the lemony dressing. Toss the salad well. Add the croutons and a few coarse gratings of parmesan cheese, then toss again. Taste a leaf to make sure the salad has a bright lemon flavor, then serve.