It’s April, and I find myself discussing “Spring” with the kindergarteners each day. Spring, however, is a confusing concept on the east coast of the United States of America in the year Two-Thousand Thirteen.
Last week was Spring Break; I spent three days in the mountains with my in-laws and the remaining weeks shivering with my folks at the beach.
Spring break day one (at a magical mountain cottage) looked like this:
Spring break day two looked like this:
Last week I wore short sleeves to work; the following night’s forecast was sleet and flurries. This weather certainly leaves one stumped about dinner. Something potato-laden, bubbling with cheese? Or shaved asparagus with lemon, crisp and chilled? Here’s a very special salad featuring some buttery comfort from the oven and simple fresh veggies.
FIRST, SECRETS TO A SUPERB SALAD: I get lots of compliments from guests about my salads, and this is the real texture secret: a mandolin. I have a $10 mandolin from Home Goods and love using it to slice peppers, apples or pears to toss with salad greens, lemon juice and olive oil (those last ingredients are Secret Number Two). The salad is uniformly thin, fork-friendly and crisp. No more salads weighted down with thick cuts of carrots and radishes that require endless chomping. I used my mandolin (carefully, so carefully) to quickly slice the onions and bell pepper for this recipe. You can find a mandolin at Target, Wal-Mart, TJMaxx, Amazon, etc. (Other kitchen essentials here).
Andrew and I loved this restaurant-quality dressing, exciting enough to enjoy the salad for two dinners—and use up the leftover buttermilk for fruit-topped pancakes on night three.
Time-saver Note: I whipped up Trader Joe’s Cornbread Mix in two minutes and baked this while prepping the remaining salad. I have still included a from-scratch cornbread recipe I’ll try on a weekend 😉
Corn Bread Salad
1 recipe Crispy Corn Bread (below) or 3 cups of 1-inch cornbread cubes
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes (4 to 6 medium or halved cherry tomatoes)
6 cups roughly torn sturdy fresh lettuce, such as Bibb, butter or Boston
2 cups bitter greens, such as arugula (crucial!)
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 large Vidalia onion, trimmed, peeled, sliced crosswise as thinly as possible and separated into rings
1 recipe Buttermilk-Lime Dressing (below)
Preheat oven to 250°. Scatter the corn bread in a single layer on a half-sheet pan and bake until the pieces are lightly toasted, about 7 minutes.
Chop the tomatoes with the skin on. Place lettuce, greens, 3 cups of toasted corn bread, onion and tomatoes to a large bowl and toss to combine. Drizzle with buttermilk dressing, season with salt and pepper, and toss again. Serve immediately.
Deb’s do ahead tip: If you’re making this for a picnic or pot-luck — and oh, you should — she suggests keeping the croutons in one container, the dressing in another and the salad mixture in a third; this is best freshly assembled, or in the 30 minutes after.
3/4 cup whole or lowfat buttermilk
5 tabespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (they say from 3 to 4 limes; I only needed 1 1/2)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (optional, this was my addition to give it more zing)
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup finely minced fresh basil
1/4 cup finely minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup finely minced green onions
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl until combined. Can covered tightly and stored in the fridge up to two days.
Note from Lindsey: I kept this hand-chopped and chunky, but I think it would be creamier (and faster) in a blender. Since this is a repeat recipe, I plan to puree next time. This recipe is a fabulous twist on my favorite couldn’t-be-easier salad, Panzanella. Try it here.
if you’re not making the cornbread from a mix, read on…
Thin, Crispy Corn Bread
Adapted by Deb from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups stone-ground cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups whole or lowfat buttermilk (whole is preferred, here’s how you can make your own)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Grease a 12-inch skillet with one tablespoon of the lard or butter, leaving any excess in the pan, and place it in the oven.
In a large bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg until frothy and then whisk in the buttermilk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and mix thoroughly. Melt the remaining butter in a small skill (or your microwave) and whisk the butter into your batter.
While the fat in the large skillet is smoking, carefully remove the skillet from the oven and swirl the fat around to coat the bottom and sides evenly. Pour the batter into the skillet; it should “sizzle alluringly”, says the Lee Brothers. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the top of the bread is golden brown and the edge has pulled away from the side of the skillet. Remove from the oven and either serve hot, in six wedges, or let cool and reserve for Corn Bread Salad (above).