Cherry Arugula Salad with Homemade Croutons

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cherry_salad.jpgThis is a nice non-dessert way to use ripe summer cherries. Crushed cherries and balsamic vinegar combine to make a nice, light dressing for peppery arugula and crusty olive oil croutons. Like most salad recipes, the measurements are approximate.

A few pieces of rustic bread, preferably a day old
olive oil
1/2 pound cherries, halved and pitted
1/8 tsp pressed or crushed garlic
balsamic vinegar
salt
black pepper
arugula
crumbled strong white cheese (feta, goat cheese, Parmesan, or other)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Trim crust from bread, and discard the crust.  Tear the bread into rough, bite-size pieces (you should have about 4 cups, total). Dump the bread onto a rimmed baking sheet, and drizzle (or spray) it with olive oil.  Toss to coat and sprinkle with salt (and garlic powder if not using fresh garlic). Bake until crispy and golden in spots, shaking the pan once, 5 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, put about one-third of the cherries in a large bowl and mash them lightly with a fork to release their juices. Add 2 tsp balsamic vinegar and mix. Add 1 tsp. olive oil and a pinch or two of salt and mix again. Add a few handfuls of arugula and toss. Taste, and adjust the vinegar, oil and salt as needed. Sprinkle with a tsp. of sugar if it needs more sweetness.
When the bread is nicely toasted, turn it into a bowl. While it is still hot, add the crushed garlic and toss well.  Set the bowl aside to cool for a minute or two, add to the salad, and toss. Finish with a generous amount of crumbled cheese and a few grinds of the pepper mill, and serve.

Original recipe

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