Saturday Salad

Most Saturdays around lunchtime you’ll probably find my family chomping on pho, tortas, tacos, dim sum or about a million other delicious things we did not cook. Saturday lunches out with the fam are the best — cheap and low key, a little treat to ourselves for making it through another week.

As much as we love eating great food and not doing the dishes, once in a while we do find ourselves at home on a Saturday at the stroke of lunch o’clock. Thankfully Tim, our resident expert omelet maker, is usually happy to oblige us with his Jacques Pepin-like skills. If left to me, I usually gather whatever hodge podge leftovers we have in the fridge and call it a day. But once in a while inspiration strikes like this salad which was so, so good that I just had to share it. A happy accident of random ingredients in our refrigerator (vegetables, good sour dough bread, grapefruit juice) — I know I will make this one again… but this time on purpose.

Here’s to Saturdays!

Saturday Salad

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts and Carrots: Pre-heat a lightly oiled cookie sheet in a hot oven (425 degrees). The vegetables (halved brussels sprouts and carrots cut on the bias – both tossed with olive oil and a pinch of sugar) will sizzle as they hit the pan. Start checking them after 2o minutes and remove them when they are tender and golden around the edges. Hit them with a sprinkle of kosher salt and some finely minced parsley and mint. To help you roast each vegetable to perfection, you can cook the brussels sprouts and carrots on two separate baking sheets or at either end of one large cookie sheet.

Rustic Breadcrumbs: Grab a few slices of bread (a rustic loaf is best, we like sourdough) and tear them up by hand into smaller than crouton-sized pieces. Toss them lightly with olive oil then place them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and your favorite spices (sumac and paprika in our case). Put them in the oven alongside the vegetables, checking and tossing them every 5 minutes or so and removing them when they are dry and crisped. Break up any too-chunky bits into smaller pieces.

Grapefruit-Shallot Vinaigrette: Finely mince one small shallot and place it in a bowl along with 1 Tablespoon of champagne vinegar, 2 Tablespoons of grapefruit juice and a 1/2 teaspoon of dijon mustard, as well as a big pinch of salt and pepper. Let it sit to macerate for about 15 minutes. While you whisk, slowly drizzle in about 1/4 cup of olive oil. Keep whisking until your dressing comes together and is nicely emulsified. Taste and adjust to your liking adding more salt, oil, grapefruit juice, vinegar or a pinch of sugar as needed.

Assemble the Salad: This salad benefits from being  layered vs. being tossed in a big salad bowl. Artfully arrange your baby spinach leaves, roasted vegetables, and breadcrumbs on a big platter or individual plates, drizzling with dressing as you go.

You might also like: Crispy Caramelized Cauliflower (aka “vegetable candy”); Jumping on the Crispy Kale Bandwagon; Hurray for Brussels Sprouts

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Eggplant-Sourdough Polpette

I first got inspired to make these after enjoying the excellent eggplant polpette at Bar Bambino in San Francisco’s Mission District. I wasn’t able to find a recipe, so I just made up my own. This is one of my very favorite “go-to” recipes for parties and potlucks.


Because I often don’t have a lot of time to cook in one sitting, I purge/ roast the eggplant one day and assemble and bake the polpette on another day. These freeze well, so I always make a big batch so that I have some to stash away in the freezer for a quick meal or snack at the ready. I’ve found that kids (well mine at least) will generally eat anything in the shape of a meatball.

Ingredients (makes about 3 dozen small polpette)

  • 3 Medium Italian Eggplant
  • 1/2 Loaf of Good Sourdough Bread (or your favorite rustic loaf)
  • 2 Cups Milk
  • 1 Carrot, 1 Zucchini — grated finely and squeezed dry
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/2 Cup Grated Parmegiano Reggiano
  • 1/2 Cup Finely Chopped Parsley
  • 1 Cup Bread Crumbs*
  • Olive Oil, Kosher Salt, Pepper

Click on the picture above for more detailed instructions, but here is the method in a nutshell.

  1. Slice and purge the eggplant by sprinkling the cut sides with kosher salt and letting the juices drain out.
  2. Pat dry and roast the eggplant slices on a lightly oiled cookie sheet until tender. Chop and set aside.
  3. Trim the crust from the bread, slice and soak in milk. Squeeze out & discard the liquid and crumble into a bowl. Add the chopped eggplant, egg, carrot, zucchini, parmegiano reggiano, parsley, and a dash of salt and peper. Mix well.
  4. Form into balls. Roll each ball in breadcrumbs. Bake on a lightly oiled cookie sheet at 375 until crispy and golden.

Serve as is, simmered in tomato sauce, on a sandwich — or any other way you like to eat meatballs!

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* Homemade Bread Crumbs *

It’s easy to make your own bread crumbs and they are soooooooo much better than store bought. Just toss your stale bread, crusts in a freezer-safe container. When you have saved up a bunch, lay your bread trimmings on an ungreased cookie sheet. Toast at 350 until dry and crisped (15-20 minutes). You can flavor them up if you like with herb and spices of your choice. I often add a handful of sesame seeds or golden flax seed. Process everything in a food processor until you have the texture of coarse sand. If you find your bread crumbs are not dry and sandy, return them to the baking sheet and toast them a bit more. Store in an airtight container in the freezer.