A dinner for when you don’t want to cook dinner. (Is this you tonight? Me too.) Start with your favorite lettuce—or, you know, whatever is in the fridge right now. I love escarole for its bitterish flavor and ruffly, sturdy texture. Kale, baby arugula, radicchio, spinach, butter, or iceberg all work, too. You could even do a mix. Whatever you pick, toss with a mustardy dressing. I always have Dijon in my fridge because it needs little more than a splash of olive oil (for richness) and water (for loosening) to turn into a bomb salad dressing. In this case, it’s the perfect partner-in-crime for grilled cheese croutons. Yes—these are as melty, gooey, and life-affirming as they sound. Find the best bread you can (I like a crusty sourdough or grainy whole-wheat or seeded something-something) and cut it thick. Keep the crusts—they’re big on flavor. If you don’t like or have Muenster, cheddar, provolone, or Monterey-Jack all work, too. Drizzle the outside with olive oil (this is less likely to burn than butter) and season generously with salt and pepper (this creates an A+ crust). After crisping in a skillet, let cool for a couple minutes (this gives the cheese a chance to gather itself), and chop into bite-size hunks. Sprinkle these on top of the salad and, ta-da, dinner is ready. (If you want to bulk things up, you could certainly add some leftover chicken, or a hard-boiled egg, or canned beans, but most nights I don't find this necessary.) Eat immediately, of course, but also on the couch, in front of the fireplace or TV or fireplace on your TV. It’s been a long day. —Emma Laperruque
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Mustardy Escarole Salad With Grilled Cheese Croutons
thick slices your favorite bread
thick slices Muenster cheese
extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the grilled cheese
Set a nonstick or cast-iron skillet on the stove over medium heat. While the pan heats up, make two sandwiches with the bread and cheese. Brush the outside of the sandwiches with a small amount of olive oil, then generously sprinkle all over with salt and pepper.
When the pan is hot, add the cheese sandwiches. Adjust the heat to medium-low, cover with a lid, and cook for about 3 minutes, pressing down every so often, until the bottoms are golden-brown. Flip, cover again, and cook for another 3 minutes or so, until golden-brown all over and the cheese is melty.
While the grilled cheeses are cooking, make the dressing: Add the 2 tablespoons olive oil, Dijon mustard, 2 teaspoons cold water, and a couple pinches each of salt and pepper to a mixing bowl. Stir with a fork until smooth.
When they're done, transfer the grilled cheese sandwiches to a cutting board to cool while you make the salad: Add the escarole to the bowl with the dressing and toss. Taste and adjust as needed. Divide the salad between two bowls or plates.
Chop the grilled cheese into bite-sized pieces, then sprinkle these on top of the salad. Eat ASAP.
Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram and Twitter at @emmalaperruque.