Most people associate Valentine’s Day with romantic foods like chocolates, strawberries and oysters, but I think that dark green leafy vegetables should be up there on the list too. Dark green leaves are great for the heart, which is an excellent reason to eat them on Valentine’s Day! If you don’t want to mix your own leaves, you can buy pre-mixed bags of leaves which have 4-6 varieties in them.
To make an easy and delicious Valentine’s Salad, try tossing mixed leaves in balsamic vinaigrette and topping them with some delicious home-baked garlic-parmesan croutons. (To learn how to bake croutons, see my Cooking Tutorial: How To Bake Croutons.)
Home-made croutons are so much tastier and healthier than store-bought ones. They are also very easy to make and you can prepare them in large batches and store them (tightly sealed) in your refrigerator to throw onto salads for the whole week!
Some people like to fry their croutons in butter, but I prefer baking them in the oven with extra virgin olive oil. I have read several recipes which suggest using bread which is a few days old but, since I usually don’t plan things in advance, I often use fresh same-day bread and they turn out just fine. You simply need to bake them for a little longer to get them crispy.
At their simplest, croutons can be made with only bread and olive oil and still turn out wonderfully tasty, but adding some garlic and parmesan makes everything more delicious.
The croutons can simply be cut into chunky cubes, but for Valentine’s Day you can make them extra special by using a cookie cutter to cut out heart-shaped croutons. What a great (and healthy) way to say, “I love you!”
Write your comment below: Have you ever cooked something healthy for your other half on Valentine’s Day? Or maybe it was your other half who cooked something special and healthy for you? Tell us what it was!
LEAFY GREEN SALAD WITH GARLIC-PARMESAN CROUTONS
(Serves 4 as a starter)
(If making for 2, halve the recipe for the salad and dressing but keep the crouton quantity the same)
Crouton Ingredients: (can be made a day in advance)
6 slices from a loaf of good quality white bread
3 garlic cloves, grated
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Generous pinch of salt
Fresh ground pepper (to taste)
3 Tbsp freshly grated parmesan
6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2-3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Generous pinch of salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste
6-8 cups of mixed dark green lettuce leaves (you can get good packs of mixed lettuce leaves from most supermarkets)
1 cucumber, sliced
12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- Croutons: Preheat the oven to 375F/ 190C. Cut your bread slices into chunky cubes or use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes. Spread evenly in a single layer on a baking sheet.
- In a bowl, combine the grated garlic cloves, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well and then drizzle over the bread. Toss the bread around to coat it on both sides and then re-arrange it again in a single layer on the baking sheet.
- Sprinkle the parmesan cheese on top of the croutons and bake for 10-20 minutes (less time if the bread is dry and more time if it is fresh). Check every 5 minutes to make sure they aren’t getting burnt. Toss the croutons once, when they seem about halfway done.
- Allow the croutons to cool to room temperature. Use immediately or seal well and store them in the refrigerator.
- Dressing: Combine all the dressing ingredients together in a screw-top jar or a bowl. Mix well and put aside until you are ready to serve the salad.
- Salad: Wash the salad leaves, cucumber and tomatoes and then dry. Slice the cucumber and cut the tomatoes. Roughly chop the dark green leaves, if necessary. Toss the leaves with the dressing just prior to serving. Scatter the cucumber and tomato on top of the salad and arrange the croutons on top.