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Today: A lighter way to make a creamy salad dressing (without eggs or mayo or cream) -- plus, how to stop wasting so much bread.
If you are a person who likes freshly baked bread, I would bet you're also a person plagued by forgotten heels of baguettes and boules skidding toward fossildom on the counter. You're always looking for more ways to keep up, especially ones that will weave into your diet subtly, that don't feel like another meal made of bread.
In its varying states of metamorphosis, abandoned bread can become croutons, crumbs, French toast, panzanella, or pudding. With these dimly in mind, as if on a weekly appointment, I stuff a dead nub into my freezer, packed hastily and poorly, so it will at least be there "when I need it."
Which is how one humbling team lunch, while others had brought attractive avocados or greenmarket carrots, I left Kenzi to do her best with a chunk of I'm-not-sure-what that was so freezer-burnt she almost couldn't cleave through it. As she leaned her body weight onto the knife, it squeaked in refusal. But even that, in its decrepit state, became a perfectly good pappa al pomodoro. Never give up! You can turn bread, even at its least edible, into a real, true meal.
But if I'd known this genius trick from Bon Appétit back then, I might not have let my freezer turn into such a graveyard. Editors Dawn Perry and Claire Saffitz developed a way to plump up a spare vinaigrette, without getting cream or mayo or egg yolks involved -- so you can serve it to your vegan friends (and young children, the pregnant and infirm, and anyone else you don't feel comfortable subjecting to your own cavalier attitudes about raw egg).
After a few quick pulses in a food processor and a soak with vinegar, garlic, mustard, and water, the bread bits soften. Then, as you blend in the olive oil, they smooth out into a rich emulsion, like an extra-punchy white gazpacho.
Better yet, the bread contributes not just thickening strength, but flavor. Here, the creamy tang of sourdough bounces nicely off of bitter radicchio, but you could harness pumpernickel or rye or rosemary focaccia in the same way, making not-boring salads that don't need much more. Crisping up another handful of bread bits in olive oil will complete the circle -- and help make room for a new loaf of bread.
Adpated slightly from Bon Appétit (December, 2014)
Makes 4 servings
3 ounces sourdough bread, crust removed, torn into small pieces (about 1 cup), divided
1 tablespoon + 1/3 cup olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small garlic clove
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
1 head radicchio, leaves separated, torn if large
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].
The Genius Recipes cookbook is here! (Well, almost.) The book is a mix of greatest hits from the column and unpublished new favorites -- all told, over 100 recipes that will change the way you think about cooking. It'll be on shelves in April, but you can pre-order yours now.
Photos by James Ransom