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EXPRESS LINE : Here Comes the (Salad) Crunch

May 16, 1991|MINNIE BERNARDINO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

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Creamy asparagus - dill soup with baby shrimp

Grilled scallops en brochette with lemon herb butter

Bread Salad With Tuna

Grilled zucchini

Grape clusters

Every meal should have balance--not just of flavor and color but of texture as well. In this menu, for instance, the tenderness of seafood contrasts well with the crisp texture of the bread salad.

The soup starter is creamy. A timesaving step is to whip it up from your favorite cream of asparagus soup mix. Then make it even creamier if you want by stirring in half and half or cream instead of milk. Add whispers of fresh dill, a sprinkling of delicate baby shrimp and the instant soup is nicely disguised.

Scallops sizzle fast on the grill (a preheated cast iron grill is less fussy) and makes a nice easy first course. Skewer a few medium scallops and cook about 3 to 5 minutes on each side, brushing with lemon herb butter. Don't over-cook or they'll lose that buttery soft texture.

Now the bread salad for crunch. Think of it as large croutons taking over a small green salad. In making the croutons, avoid over-baking the bread cubes to the point of drying. (You don't want to end up with a rock salad.) It's good to use day-old bread but remember that the drier the bread, the faster the cubes will bake.

Tossed with a garlicky vinaigrette that seeps into the bread cubes, lots of Parmesan cheese and a good canned tuna, and doctored a little to your taste, this unusual salad may pleasantly surprise you. In fact, it may fill you enough to omit the grilled scallops.

Finally, a crisp ending: sweet seedless red or green grapes.

BREAD SALAD WITH TUNA

Staples

Day-old French bread

2 to 3 ounces Parmesan cheese

3 cloves garlic

Shopping

1 small package slivered almonds

1 small bottle Italian dressing

1 lemon

2 (8-ounce) cans tuna packed in water or olive oil

1 tomato, optional

1 small head lettuce (romaine, red leaf, Boston, arugula or packaged assortment of baby lettuces)

1. Cut French bread in 3/4-inch cubes and measure 6 cups. Place on one side of baking sheet. Place 1/4 cup slivered almonds on other side of baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees 5 to 10 minutes or until bread cubes are crisp and lightly browned (bread several days old will crisp faster) and almonds are golden. Cool.

2. Chop 3 cloves garlic. Cut 1 lemon in half and squeeze juice. Drain 2 (8-ounce) cans tuna in water and cut into chunks. Tear 1/2 head lettuce. Dice 1 tomato, if using. Coarsely shred 2 to 3 ounces Parmesan cheese.

3. Combine 1/2 cup Italian dressing with garlic and lemon juice in large bowl. Mix in bread cubes, almonds, half of tuna, lettuce, tomato and Parmesan. Gently toss and serve, topped with remaining tuna.

Makes 4 servings.

Note: Instead of bottled Italian dressing, use 3 tablespoons each olive oil, walnut oil and white wine vinegar. Substitute 1 pound julienned cooked ham, chicken or turkey for tuna.

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