Romaine Salad with Cornbread Croutons & Buttermilk Garlic Dressing

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Many of my best food memories from childhood occurred at chain restaurants. It’s an old story by now–how my parents didn’t cook, yadda yadda yadda–and we ate most of our weeknight meals in Boca Raton at restaurants owned by athletes (Pete Rose’s, Wilt Chamberlain’s) or country-wide chains like Chili’s, Friday’s and The Cheesecake Factory. At the top of the chain restaurant hierarchy was a restaurant that’s still in business around the country, and still just as good as it was the first time we ate there; that would be Houston’s.

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Heirloom Tomato Salad

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Despite this month’s banner, one of my favorite dishes to serve in summer is an heirloom tomato salad. It’s a dish that does the work for you: just buy an array of quirkily beautiful heirloom tomatoes–as many colors and shapes as you can find at the farmer’s market–cut them into slices or wedges and serve them with torn-bread croutons, green basil (plus purple basil if you can find it) and some shaved ricotta salata on top. The finished plate looks something like this….

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On Breadcrumbs & Croutons

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Molly Wizenberg, who many of you know as Orangette, has cooked for me three times over the course of our friendship. All three meals have been documented here on the blog: the first meal was in January of 2007, the next was a New Year’s Eve dinner (actually I can’t find the post about that) and then, finally, the meal that Molly’s husband Brandon made for me when I was stranded in Seattle during a blizzard. So actually she didn’t cook that third meal.

But the point is that I was karmically indebted to her and desperately keen to make her food upon her next visit to New York. Lo and behold she was here last night! And last night, guess what? I made her dinner. A carbilicious feast that put to use two underused culinary tools, the two items you see above: homemade breadcrumbs & croutons.

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