Author Notes: Recently, pierino posted a question on the FOOD52 Hotline asking for people’s top food discoveries in 2011. As odd as it may seem, one of my best “discoveries” was, of all things, sage. I’ve never been terribly fond of the herb, for reasons I cannot fully explain. Then, in late 2009, I made melissav’s contest-winning Ciabatta Stuffing with Chorizo, Sweet Potatoes and Mushrooms, which is scented with rosemary and sage. It’s amazing. A few months later, I experimented with sage again when I stumbled on Jerry Traunfeld’s “Cuban” adobo herb combination. I’ve adapted that adobo with great success in braising pork shoulders on several occasions. The addictive rosemary and sage-scented croutons of melissav’s stuffing, however, provide the raison d’etre for this salad. After all, is there anyone who doesn’t consider really tasty croutons to be the best part of any salad? I use my own potato focaccia instead of ciabatta, to get as much flavorful crust per crouton possible. To strengthen the herb notes, I lace my potato focaccia with a few heaping tablespoons each of fresh rosemary and sage, in addition to roasting the cubed bread with olive oil, salt and herbs. It’s bold, but ever so good. (If you don’t have the time or inclination to make your own focaccia, no worries. A standard focaccia will work just fine.) The last time I made the stuffing, I added an apple, which also works nicely in this salad. You could use a firm Bartlett or Comice pear or an Asian pear instead. Enjoy!! ;o) - AntoniaJames
- 2 cups cubed artisanal focaccia, cut into ¾” dice (but see note below . . . if you’re making your own focaccia, add a handful of chopped sage and rosemary, or chopped sage and thyme)
- 5 tablespoons flavorful olive oil, divided (3 for the croutons, 1 for the nuts, and 1 for the dressing)
- Kosher salt
- 6 or 8 handfuls of lettuce leaves – I prefer a combination of Boston and red leaf lettuce for this
- 1 tablespoon walnut oil
- 2 medium apples (a crisp, sweet-tart variety – I like Braeburns for this) (Firm pears also work well.)
- 2 Persian cucumbers, sliced, or ½ cup of jicama, peeled and cut into 2-inch matchsticks (optional)
- Black pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Put the focaccia cubes in a large bowl. Drizzle slowly 3 tablespoons of oil over them with a big pinch of salt and toss. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of chopped sage and the chopped rosemary over the cubes, toss very lightly, then, turn out onto a large baking sheet. Spread them out and put into the hot oven. Toast for 5 minutes, then turn the croutons over and toast for another 5 minutes, more or less, depending on how brown they are after the first five minutes.
- Whisk together the vinegars and cider with a tiny pinch of salt. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the walnut oil and whisk to combine.
- Right before making the salad, quarter, core and thinly slice the apple. (You can actually do this an hour or two before, but make sure to cover the apple slices in dressing, then cover them with the other ingredients in the salad bowl.)
- To make the salad, thoroughly toss the lettuce, apples, feta and cucumber or jicama, if using, with a few tablespoons of salad dressing. Sprinkle on the toasted walnuts and croutons and toss again 10 or 12 times. Test for salt and add the remaining bit of dressing, if necessary. Grind some black pepper over the salad, if you like.
- Enjoy!! ;o)
- NB: I use my own make Rosemary Sage Focaccia, the recipe for which I hope to post here on FOOD52 within the next week or two. It provides a nice boost of herb flavor, which works particularly well in a simple salad such as this.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Walnuts & Sage