I have quite a cookbook collection. They’ve overflowed my bookcases and spilled over to both coffee tables. They’re stacked on my desk and sometimes they accompany me to bed. Flipping through the best cookbooks sends my mind into a tizzy and leaves me feeling sort of desperately, overwhelmingly inspired. I want to make everything and it kills me that I don’t have time for all of them.
I watched my mom self-publish a few books when I was young, so I know how much effort and care goes into the making of a book. I’m in awe of all the authors who come up with a concept and carry it through to execution. It’s truly a labor of love.
Ashley Rodriguez is one of those authors. You may know her work from her beautiful blog, Not Without Salt. She’s a wife and a mother and created a cookbook called Date Night In, which is full of date night-worthy, complete meals to share with another person.
I can see how much thought Ashley put into her book. She wove stories throughout and added notes on which elements of the recipe can be prepared in advance. The recipes are worthy of special occasions or just a date night in—they’re a little on the indulgent side, and not many of the meals are meatless, but they all feature fresh, quality ingredients.
This single vegetarian girl found quite a few recipes to dog ear, including this gorgeous sun-dried tomato salad. I’m thoroughly smitten with it. It doesn’t call for anchovies or Worcestershire sauce like most Caesar salads, but it has a remarkably familiar Caesar taste thanks to all the Parmesan. I used Whole Foods’ brand grated Parmesan, which is made without animal rennet, so it’s truly vegetarian. I don’t like to talk about animal rennet because I don’t want to overcomplicate the simple concept of a meatless diet, but most Parmesans are not technically vegetarian. (I don’t bother looking at cheese labels or asking before I order a pizza, but that’s just me.)
This salad is rich and outrageously delicious, the perfect accompaniment to many a main dish. I think it would be lovely with my mushroom risotto, roasted ratatouille with spaghetti or just about anything with Italian flavors! Brava to Ashley for a book well done.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups of 3/4-inch cubes of rustic bread (I used whole grain sourdough)
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped sun-dried tomatoes
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
- Pinch sea salt
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 or more small heads of romaine (you can eyeball it), halved or chopped
- Sprinkle of additional Parmesan
- Sprinkle of additional chopped sun-dried tomatoes
- First, a note on sun-dried tomatoes. I'm partial to Trader Joe's sun-dried tomatoes that come in a bag because they aren't oily but they're soft enough to eat right out of the bag. You could also use oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed and patted dry. If you're using tough, dried tomatoes, you'll need to soak them in boiling water until they're pliable, then pat them dry and continue with the recipe.
- To make the croutons, preheat the oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the top of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix the olive oil, Parmesan and salt in a large mixing bowl until a paste is formed. Add the cubed bread and mix well with a spatula, until all the bread is coated. Turn the bread onto the prepared baking sheet and arrange in a single layer. I couldn't quite mix in all of my Parmesan mixture, so I sort of lumped the excess on top of the bread pieces. Bake for 10 minutes, then stir and put the croutons back into the oven until they are golden brown and crisp, up to 5 more minutes.
- To make the dressing, combine the sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan, lemon juice, water, garlic and a pinch of salt in a food processor or high-powered blender. Process for 1 minute, stopping to scrape down the sides if necessary. While running the machine, drizzle in the olive oil and blend for 10 more seconds. Don't worry if it's not perfectly smooth; it will still taste delicious! Taste and add more salt and some black pepper, if desired. Set aside.
- To assemble the salad, drizzle the dressing over your halved romaine or toss with your chopped romaine. Finish with croutons and a sprinkle of Parmesan and sun-dried tomatoes. Serve immediately.
Storage suggestions: Dressing will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. If it separates, whisk vigorously before serving.