Hot summer nights call for light dinners, i.e. salads! Do you agree?
The cold (or room temperature) refreshing ingredients makes eating on warm nights tolerable. There is no need to add extra layers of body warmth from eating heavy comfort food! No, the opposite is required in summer. However, the challenge then becomes creating varying salads every night to keep them interested & eating well. I love this summons and take to it with gusto. I experiment with ingredients found in our organic vegetable garden (rocket, parsley, fennel, basil, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, and so on); our cold larder (cheeses, chutneys, pickles, left over cold meats like chicken & ham off the bone); and lastly, our pantry (olives, artichokes, noodles, croutons, tin tuna, etc).
The other night I created the Italian Summer Salad with Homemade Croutons. The reason I named it ‘Italian’ Summer Salad was because it had all the ingredients that I ate in salads growing up in an Italian household.
Rocket leaves were wild in our family garden so mum & dad served it most nights as the hero of our salads. Spanish (Red) Onion was also something my dad grew in abundance, so it too was employed often (I didn’t mind as I loved it and still do). We ate it roasted in the oven, fried with potatoes & sliced raw in salads. Cucumber – need I say more!!!! Parmesan Cheese – need I say more!!! Extra Virgin Olive Oil – need I say more!!!
Caramelised Balsamic Vinegar is something I discovered later in life – thank the lord! It is derived by adding sugar to balsamic vinegar and heating this over medium heat until the mixture caramelises – thickens and changes to a darker colour. I enjoy the balance of sweet & sour in the vinegar and how it is merges well with other ingredients in a meal (especially croutons in a salad). You can make your own, but in this case, I say don’t bother – there are some great peeps producing amazing Caramelised Balsamic Vinegars such as Pukara Estate. I have attached a link to there website for your perusal http://www.pukaraestate.com.au/caramelised-balsamic-vinegar.
Croutons – stale bread cut into cubes, drizzled with olive oil and roasted in a hot oven to create a flavour sensation. Now here is an ingredient that I recommend you don’t purchase from supermarkets but prepare yourself. Essentially, it is super simple to make, taking no time at all, using up dry/stale bread which would otherwise been through away in landfill. Not to mention how tremendously delightful it is to munch on crunchy homemade croutons in a salad. I’ll just deviate slightly here with my other favourite way to eat croutons – soaked with lashings of fresh tomato juice, chunks of tomatoes, thin slices of red onion, pinch of sea salt and a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil. Please don’t let your dry/stale bread go to waste! Follow my simple instructions and you will have homemade croutons (or breadcrumbs) to biting salad.
For croutons: cut thick bread, buns, or ciabatta style into chunky cubes (can cut off crust if you wish but I like it left on) and place on baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil. Place in preheated oven at 200c for 15-20 mins or until completely dried through. Toss croutons in salads, pasta and so much more!
For breadcrumbs: Simply place any stale bread on a baking tray (you may want to place thin slice bread on one tray and thicker buns, ciabatta style bread on another tray as heating time will vary). Place in preheated oven at 200c for 15-20 mins or until completely dried through.Then place toasted bread in food processor and blitz till breadcrumbs form.
Keep in airtight container for 3 months or freeze for up to 6 months.
I hope you enjoy this salad as much as I do. It will be the perfect side to any other dish you wish to serve up – pasta, roasted lamb, chicken skewers, savoury tarts, and so on.
- Good bunch of Rocket
- ½ Spanish Onion, thinly sliced
- 1 (large) cup Croutons (homemade is easy and the best)
- 1 Cucumber, peeled, and roughly cut into chunky quarters
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese, roughly shaved
- Good drizzle of Caramelised Balsamic Vinegar (or use Balsamic if thats all you have)
- Good drizzle of Extra virgin olive oil
- Sesaon Salt & Black Pepper
- Place all ingredients into a bowl, season well and serve. Easy peasy!