Tuesday, July 2, 2013

King Salads and Restaurant Garlic Cheese Toasts

Kids, it's HOT outside! Here in Boise, some of the local weather stations were picking up highs of over 114F, and today was nearly as bad. It's 7 PM, and 103F outside! The Tractor Shop is a metal pole building on a concrete slab, with a lot of desert to the south, and freeway to the north side. It. Gets. HOT. Even with the A/C on. By the time I get home, I'm feeling kinda sick, and not at all like eating a meal, much less cooking one! That's where the King Salad comes in.

Some King Salad ingredients, after the initial raid

King Salads are the Casa Rodman take on the standard chef's salad. When the kids were little, I'd occasionally make 'em a chef's salad, but more and more stuff kept getting added in, until they were almost ridiculous. We finally dubbed 'em "King Salads" because they were deemed fit for a king, by Thing One and Thing Two. The exact ingredients vary- you never know what's in the fridge here! But they're always good. These days, the kids are mostly autonomous, so the King Salad is now more of a salad bar- but the name's stuck, so go with it!

All you need is:
A large bowl of cut greens, your choice

Plus any or all of the following:
- hardboiled eggs
- sliced or cut-up vegetables such as radishes, tomatoes, celery, etc.
- garbanzo or other canned or cooked beans, drained and chilled
- olives, any kind
- onions, green, red, or otherwise
- croutons, chow mein noodles, or other crunchy bits
- toasted sunflower, pumpkin, or other seeds
- yummy salad dressings to top it all with (make 'em yourself- it's worth it!)

Tonight, we had restaurant garlic cheese toasts with our salads...

Garlic Cheese Toast...what's left of one!
Ah, had being the operative word.

Ever wondered how they make those parmesan cheese toasts at a certain steak-n-salad bar restaurant that rhymes with "grizzler"? I learned how to do do this at a diner where I once worked as a cook- it's really easy. We sold the heck out of this, as a side with soups- on clam chowder day, we regularly ran out of bread!

You will need:
Loaf of cheapo French bread (Poorboy loaf or Walmart bagged French works great!)
Cheap parmesan cheese in a jar (shelf-stable kind works best- don't use the good stuff for this)
Garlic salt
Dried parsley and thyme (optional)
Bagged, finely-shredded cheddar (the cheap, kinda dry stuff- optional)
Large skillet

Slice the loaf of bread- I like to slice it in half the long way, and then section it into smaller serving-size pieces. Spread butter on the sides of the bread that you want cheesed and grilled. Sprinkle the buttered sides  lightly with garlic salt, then with parmesan, and herbs, if using. Now, take your butter knife, and re-spread your butter, so that the herbs and cheese are kind of pressed down into the butter- this step is crucial to making the cheese and stuff stick to the bread, during the grilling process! Heat your skillet to medium high, and grill the buttered sides of the bread, pressing down once in awhile to help the cheese adhere. Check frequently- these cook up fast. When the cheese is lightly browned, and the bread is golden, flip the "done" pieces over to allow the back sides to toast just a little. Serve hot- makes a great side for soups, salads, and pasta dishes.

Note: for restaurant use, or for large parties, you can just mix up the butter, cheese, garlic salt, and herbs ahead of time, and spread it en mass- just mix 'em up, adding ingredients to the butter until it's to your liking. Done that way, you can speed-spread it, and cook huge batches on a large griddle or professional-style grill. However, if you do, you're stuck having to refrigerate the stuff, and then softening it when you use it- the cheddar can cause the batch to spoil pretty quickly.

Here's hoping that all of you aren't having to hunker down in darkened homes, tryin' to beat the heat. Also, very much wishing the families of the fallen Prescott Hot Shots our heartfelt best- we're so, so sorry for your loss. Fire season has started here, too, and the sun's been shining orange today, from smoke- I've been able to get a whiff, off and on today. Thanks to the quirks of our geography, the Treasure Valley gets smoke from literally hundreds of miles away, at times! However, the fires today are closer to home, 'though not anywhere near town. And heaven help us, hopefully they won't be...please be safe, folks, this Fourth of July! And pray for rain, for the West. We desperately need it.

On that note- stay cool, everyone! There are tutorials and much more on the way. Let's hear it for 4-day weekends- WOO-HOOO!


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