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Hearts of Romaine with Garlic Croutons

Hearts of romaine, the small, paler yellow leaves in the center of the large heads, are crunchy and tender, with a distinctive flavor that stands up well to assertive flavors, such as the blue cheese in the dressing and the garlic in the croutons here. Escarole and frisée, lightly bitter members of the chicory family, can be substituted for the romaine. 

Ingredients:

For the garlic croutons:

  • 8 baguette slices, each about 1/2 inch thick, crusts trimmed
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 3 garlic cloves 
  •   
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 2 oz. blue cheese, crumbled 
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. red wine vinegar 
  • 2 large romaine lettuce hearts
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley 

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 350°F.

To make the croutons, place the baguette slices on a baking sheet and drizzle with half of the olive oil. Turn the slices over and drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Turn the slices over and bake until golden on the other side, 5 to 7 minutes more. Remove from the oven and use a fork or your fingers to rub both sides with the garlic cloves. Break each slice into several pieces, making rough croutons. Set aside.

In a bowl, combine the olive oil and blue cheese. Using a fork, mash the cheese into the oil to make a creamy dressing. Stir in the vinegar.

Cut each romaine heart lengthwise into quarters. Place on a platter or on individual plates. Drizzle generously with the dressing, dividing it evenly over the salad. Sprinkle with the parsley and top with the garlic croutons. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Breakfast and Brunch, by Georgeanne Brennan, Elinor Klivans, Jordan Mackay and Charles Pierce (Oxmoor House, 2007).