Strawberry Shortcake might be over, but it's still strawberry season! I'm trying to make the most of what's left of it, but I think it is getting close to the end. We theoretically could probably still go and pick, but Mom and I have already picked twice this year, and the last time was wet and tough picking, so I don't think Mom would be game to go with me again. Oh well. Mom even made a beautiful strawberry-rhubarb crisp this week with the leftover strawberries from picking last week.
One thing I knew had to happen before strawberry season ended was strawberry salad. Fruit salads are one of my favorite things ever, but it took me a loooooong time to warm up to putting fruit in green salads. A looooooooong time. Like until either last summer or the one before.
The beginnings of this salad go back to Monday afternoon, however. This salad has a long backstory.
On Monday afternoon, Mom and I went to church to help prepare the free community hot meal. As part of this meal, our church gets all the day old bread from a local supermarket. So we ended up with some really yummy sounding, but in reality very . . . chewy, ciabatta breadsticks. We attempted to eat them with dinner on Monday, but I'm the only one who actually got through mine. They were a little tough. Rather than trying to break our teeth on them on Tuesday, we decided to make croutons out of them.
Now croutons are one of those things I had always thought about making, but just never really got around to it. I also never really happened to have stale good bread sitting around. It's just not something I usually have on hand. Croutons are so simple though. Really, it's basically like roasting veggies (and you know I like to do that) but with bread. So simple.
I cut up the breadsticks into bite-sized pieces. That was the hardest part of the job because they were pretty darn solid.
Then I laid them out on a baking sheet.
I drizzled them with olive oil until and tossed them in the oil until they were pretty much coated. I was trying to go light on the oil, so I didn't coat every square inch, which is probably why some of them got darker than others, but I didn't care.
Then, inspired by the "olive oil" flavoring of the original breadsticks, I sprinkled fresh chopped rosemary over them, then dried minced garlic and thyme. Of course I used thyme. What else was I supposed to use?
As a side note, I think that having pots of herbs hanging around the kitchen is one of the most rewarding things ever. I love having a garden and all, but gardens are limited in their season and take a lot more time and work. Pots of herbs don't take much time or effort at all, and they are available all year round. Plus they just look pretty. Green, living things are always cheery to have around. Talk about knowing where your food comes from.
Anyway, back to the croutons. I baked them in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Then I burnt my tongue trying one. Don't do that. Wait until they are cooled to see if they are crunchy enough.
This leads me to the second part of the backstory. Since we didn't have time to go strawberry picking again, Mom and I went on a quest to find local strawberries on Tuesday morning. We ended up trying three different farmstands before finding one that was open. However, we did find one -- one that happens to be particularly fun because it's a small natural grocery store too, and it has a deli. And I think they had local lettuce too. At least, with the bugs and dirt I was washing off, they did a very good job disguising it as local lettuce.
In order to make the salad itself, I chopped the strawberries.
Then I washed the lettuce and tore it into salad-acceptable pieces.
Then I drained some mandarin oranges, and added the strawberries and oranges to the plates of lettuce.
I then topped this with cheese and toasted almonds that I kind of burnt a little. Oops.
Then I added my croutons and some cooked leftover chicken I happened to have on hand.
I served it with Raspberry Vinaigrette dressing.
Usually, I don't bother with a recipe for a salad -- I just put whatever veggies are fresh or look good into it. However, this one is 100% worth the recipe. And it's pretty flexible too.