Makes 4 servings
Here’s where the American south (ham and black-eyed peas) meets the classical French (creamy garlic dressing). In truth, anything tossed in this dressing tastes good. Feel free to put it on sauteed shrimp, roast chicken, or grilled vegetables. (It was adapted from a Gourmet recipe for Grilled Quail Salad.) The only ingredients you need to cook here are the potatoes. The rest are waiting for you at the supermarket, already cooked or prepared. If you don’t want to make croutons, you can substitute quick toasts made by running some slices of country bread under the broiler.
3/4 pound small (about 1 1/4 inches) red potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
Place the potatoes in a large saucepan with cold salted water to cover by 1 inch and bring the water to a boil. Simmer the potatoes for 15 to 18 minutes, or until they are just tender. Drain.
Meanwhile, whisk together 1 tablespoon of the vinegar and 1 teaspoon of the mustard in a medium bowl. Add the hot potatoes and toss until well coated; set aside.
Combine the remaining vinegar and mustard with the cream, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil to make a dressing. Add the potatoes, black eyed peas, ham, celery, and salt and pepper to taste; toss to combine. Add the spinach and croutons and serve.
Croutons Four Ways
This is a little more of a stretch than making your own bread crumbs. I doubt that most people are going to whip up a batch of homemade croutons after they get home from work. Maybe this is more of a weekend project; admittedly, it is the side of me that really loves to cook, as opposed to the busy working mom, who wanted to put Croutons Four Ways in here. They just taste so much better and so much fresher than store-bought, and if you do have some bread kicking around that is getting a little stale around the edges, this is the perfect use for it.
4 slices (about 4 ounces) homemade-style white toasting bread
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Trim off the bread crusts; cut the bread into 3/4-inch squares.
Combine the oil, seasoning for the variation you are making, and salt in a large bowl. Add the bread and toss until the pieces are evenly coated. Spread the croutons out on a large, ungreased, rimmed baking sheet.
Bake until the bread begins to brown on the edges, about 20 minutes; stir occasionally and check to make sure they don’t get too dark. Turn off the oven and allow the croutons to stay in the oven until thoroughly dry, several hours or overnight. Store as directed for the variation you are using.
Greek: Add 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, and 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano to the basic recipe above. Store in an airtight container and use within 1 month.
Italian: Add 1 teaspoon dried basil, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder to the basic recipe above. Store in an airtight container and use within 1 month. If desired, toss with another tablespoon oil and then 2 tablespoons very finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano just before using.
Southwestern: Substitute corn or peanut oil for the olive oil and add 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram, and 1/2 teaspoon onion powder to the basic recipe above. Store in an airtight container and use within 1 month.
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