Once upon a time, croutons were my salad kryptonite. Though I didn’t love salads, I could totally get on board if I came across one piled high with croutons. In fact, once I began preparing my own food in college (post-dorm days), I think I added croutons to practically every salad I made because they added a crunchy decadence that made greens less boring.
Truth is, I haven’t put croutons on a homemade salad in an exceptionally long time, Caesar salads excluded. But after devouring this salad and practically licking my plate clean, I’ve decided to return to my old habits and revive that crunchy decadence.
A few nights ago, I was craving cornbread, so I used an old standby recipe and made a few minor changes (one to make it gluten-free):
– Sub whole wheat flour for gluten-free flour mix (I like Trader Joe’s brand)
– Amp up the garlic – 6 cloves instead of 2 (I can’t get enough!)
– Greek yogurt instead of regular yogurt
– Soymilk or almond milk instead of cow’s milk
The cornbread itself was incredible, even with the gluten-free flour (I’ve previously made it with AP flour with great results as well). But of course, I found myself with an insane amount of cornbread that even my snacky self found overwhelming. I didn’t want it to go to waste, so something clicked and I decided to just try turning the leftovers into croutons without any real expectations.
Clearly, this experiment went well, or I wouldn’t be sharing it! These croutons are mind-blowingly delicious and compliment the hearty, tangy kale salad perfectly. Even my sometimes-skeptical boyfriend loved them (and the whole dish, actually)!
This is also the type of meal that is perfect for couples, families, or roommates who have different dietary needs. For instance, my boyfriend tends to scoff at dinner plates that don’t include meat, so he appreciated the addition of simply grilled chicken on his salad.
Whether you make the salad or not, you MUST make the croutons. These things are game-changers.
Crunchy Kale Salad with Spicy Cornbread Croutons
For the croutons:
Leftover cornbread – I used about half of what the recipe yielded
Olive oil, about 2-3 tbsp.
Preheat oven to 375*. Line a baking sheet with Silpat liners, parchment paper, or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Carefully cut the cornbread with a serrated bread knife into cubes, about 1-2 inches each. Transfer to baking sheet, lightly drizzle with olive oil, and bake until crunchy and golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.
For the salad:
Inspired by The Fitnessista’s kale and jalapeno salad
1 bunch lacinto kale, washed
About ½ bunch curly kale, washed
Several stems fresh cilantro, rinsed and chopped
5 radishes, thinly sliced
1 large jalapeno, diced with seeds for spicy, without seeds for mild heat
Crumbled goat cheese, optional
Grilled chicken, optional
For the salad dressing:
Juice and zest of 1 large Meyer lemon (can substitute for one regular lemon and omit the second half lemon)
Juice of half a regular lemon
A few glugs of olive oil
4 garlic cloves, grated or finely minced
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
Whisk dressing ingredients together in a large salad bowl until emulsified. Chop kale leaves into bite-sized pieces, and add all salad ingredients into the bowl. Toss thoroughly with the dressing and let marinate for about 20 minutes before serving with the croutons and grilled chicken, if desired.