Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thank Goodness There’s a Salad
What’s cooking? French Caesar Salad and Grapefruit-Pomegranate Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

A couple of reminders from the Kitchen Goddess on Thanksgiving prep: Here are the links to my coverage on a couple of topics you may find helpful.

1. Don't forget about the candles. See my post on Candles.

2. Need ideas on table setting or napkin folding? I covered both in a post on Napkin Folding and Other Obsessions.

And before I move on to today’s topic, I’d like to say how thankful I am for all of you who show up to laugh with me or cook with me – hopefully both. You inspire me. I wish you all a weekend of fun and good food!

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Amid the piles of carbohydrates on the Thanksgiving table, it’s always a relief to find the occasional bit of green or fruit. And I don’t know about you, but I get really tired of the same old salads. So here to help you out are a couple of what I hope are fresh ideas. The only part of any of these that’s a bit tedious is the grapefruit sectioning, but you can do that the day ahead.

Kitchen Goddess note on salads: Don’t forget to chill the plates. It makes a big difference in keeping salads crisp and fresh tasting. All the plates need is about 10 minutes in the freezer, or 15 minutes in the fridge.

And while we're talking temperatures, warm plates will keep everything tasting better longer. Just let the oven cool off to 150-200º after all the cooking is done, and stick the dinner plates in for 10 minutes.

One of the recipes here calls for croutons, and it’s easy as pie to make your own – actually much easier than pie, and a whole lot faster. Challah and brioche are very similar breads – both a tiny bit sweet and made with eggs and fat. The fat in brioche is butter; in challah, it’s oil. It’s often easier to find challah in the grocery store; but they both make nice, airy croutons that won’t tear the inside of your mouth up like store-bought croutons do.

Homemade Croutons

1 loaf brioche or challah
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 400º. Trim the crust off enough of the loaf to give 2-3 cups of croutons. Slice the bread into ½-inch cubes and toss well in a bowl with the oil. Spread the croutons on a small baking pan and bake for 10-12 minutes, stirring midway to toast all sides. Let cool before using.

The classic Caesar salad uses Parmigiano-Reggiano; but my friend Laurie, whose husband adores all varieties of blue cheese, concocted this simplified version of a Caesar salad using a classic French cheese. Without the hunks of cheese that you find in most blue cheese dressings, it’s creamy yet still has that lovely salty bite from the cheese (which is why you must not add salt). The dressing makes enough for 8, but you can just remove some of it from the bowl and feed as few as 2 (or 1!) just by adjusting the amount of romaine.

French Caesar Salad

1 large head romaine lettuce, washed and torn into bite-size pieces, wrapped in damp paper towels and refrigerated until ready to serve (for a small head of romaine, simply remove half the dressing from the bowl)

1-2 cups croutons

For the dressing:
1 large clove garlic
2-3 ounces Roquefort or other blue cheese, at room temperature
1 ounce red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 ounces olive oil
freshly ground pepper to taste

Special equipment: wooden salad bowl

With a fork or a garlic press, crush the garlic into the bowl. Using your fingers, rub the garlic around the bowl, getting as much coverage as possible. Discard the garlic, or, for you avid garlic fans, mash the garlic a bit more and incorporate into the dressing.

Add the Roquefort to the bowl and smash with a fork until creamy. If you have not discarded the garlic, combine the garlic well with the Roquefort. Add the vinegar and sugar to the cheese and combine well.

Drizzle the olive oil slowly into the bowl, whisking constantly to emulsify. Add freshly ground pepper to taste.

When ready to serve, place romaine leaves on top of the dressing and toss well. Add croutons and toss again.

Grapefruit-Pomegranate Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

For the salad:
2 large red grapefruit, sectioned without membranes
½ cup pomegranate seeds
spring mix salad greens
(optional) sliced toasted almonds

 For the Citrus Vinaigrette:
1 tablespoon fresh Meyer lemon zest
⅜ teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons French ginger liqueur (Domaine de Canton)*
1½ teaspoons Meyer lemon juice
¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
½ cup olive oil

Combine well the first 5 ingredients. Add the olive oil slowly, whisking constantly to allow the mixture to emulsify. Alternatively, if you have an immersion blender, you can combine all ingredients in a jar or a small, deep bowl and blend until emulsified.

To assemble the salad, arrange greens on a plate, and top with grapefruit sections in a pinwheel pattern. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds (and almonds, if using them) on top. Drizzle the greens and fruit with the dressing. Serve with a small pitcher of extra dressing on the table.

*If you don’t have the ginger liqueur, you can substitute simple syrup or minted simple syrup. But you really should get the ginger liqueur, as it’s fabulous in all sorts of dishes, or even as an after-dinner treat.


  1. The citrus salad sounds and looks like one I could master. Bet it tastes delicious, as well.

    1. It really is delicious, and the dressing is nice and light. Happy Thanksgiving, Paula!

  2. I can't ever say no to grapefruit. And i've never had it in a salad!!! Perhaps b/c I've never allowed it to sit for more than a few minutes! I will give this a try when I get my hands on a Rio Star Grapefruit. I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful!

  3. oh and i've never made homemade croutons (shameful blush), so I'll need to try those too!

    1. You know what, Amee? This was maybe the second time I've made them, and I've now vowed to do it more often. I think the secret is in getting good bread -- seems like the professionals all say brioche or challah. Go for it! And yes, my Thanksgiving was all good things -- for which I am ever grateful.