It is STILL summer. In spite of Target’s back-to-school onslaught, New York city’s fall fashion blitz and the legions of Facebook women dreaming of their first sip of Autumn’s pumpkin spice coffee. It’s 93° outside right now, with a “real feel” of 109°. It’s hot. Lord, it’s hot. I don’t care how low the AC is set in the car I cannot cool off. Water trickles down my back into my panties. My hair hangs flat and listless no matter how much volume product I put on my roots. But I can still power-walk outside under the gorgeous columns of palms and Florida oaks. I can lazily float in the pool. And I can sip rum drinks on that said float. I can always cool off. Not so for the cold. But even when the asphalt is screaming hot, come August we start thinking of the cooler days ahead. This salad is ideal with the combination of lightness in the kale and the dressing and the more substantial feel of the frico, sour cherries and toasted pecans. It’s an easy segue to a more filling meal. Frico is merely baked parmesan and let me tell you it’s a staple in MY kitchen. Company drops by unannounced? Throw a tray of shredded or grated parm in the oven and minutes later you have a bangin’ hors d’oeuvre perfect to serve with cocktails. It’s salty and savory, completely unexpected, highly distinctive. After letting the sheet of frico cool a few minutes it can be broken into cracker sized pieces and served. How easy is that? Oh, you want more? Okay. Spread the parmesan cheese in long ovals on your parchment paper. After baking and completely cooled carefully peel the parchment paper off the oval strips. Use them as a crouton or bread stick jutting stylishly out of your salad or soup. Toss a bit of allspice or freshly cracked black pepper into the unbaked cheese and then bake for an even more complex flavor. Crush the frico into crumbs and scatter atop a lobster mac ‘n cheese or really any casserole.
Frico.Is.Great.Stuff. Wait, wait! Guess what? It lasts weeks. The longest it’s stayed in this house is a week and a half. Little mystery hands keep nibbling at it. And if you store it in an air-tight container it remains as crisp as the day you pulled it out of the oven. There are only two rules you have to keep in mind. The unbaked cheese has to be scattered over parchment paper and the frico has to cool completely before storing in order to maintain its crispness. But other that, easy-peasy. Now on to this dressing. I know some people are downright scared of buttermilk but don’t be. Look what it does to biscuit and fried chicken. This particular buttermilk dressing is lemony, tangy and oh so light. I use non-fat Greek yoghurt, Duke’s Light mayonnaise and reduced fat buttermilk and it still finishes silky, cool and inviting. It’s my new favorite salad dressing. I make it in a mini-food processor but it can be prepared in a blender or with a stick or immersion blender. I’ve mentioned in other posts that when making a salad with kale it pays to “massage” it with a few drops of olive oil. After discarding the tough stems and chopping the greens into small pieces squeeze the kale as if you are kneading dough or squishing mud between your fingers. This breaks down the leaves a bit making the salad more tender. Use both hands and rough it up for a few minutes. When you finish you’ll see the size of salad greens has been reduced. If you wish to use less kale you can also chop some romaine lettuce but mix it in AFTER you massage the kale.
I haven’t given amounts for the salad part because everyone has their own preference. There is no right or wrong way to assemble it. If you don’t like pecans use walnuts or almonds. Just make sure you roast them in the oven for a few minutes to bring out their sweet flavor. If you don’t care for nuts, leave them out. Same with the dried cherries, although they are truly outstanding in this salad. Go ahead and substitute them with dried cranberries or blueberries. I typically get my dried berries in big bags at Costco. Homemade spicy croutons are fabulous tossed into this dish and if you have dinner guests they’ll certainly give you thanks for that special touch. So let’s get to it!
Buttermilk Salad Dressing
- 1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
- zest of one lemon
- 1/4 cup Greek yoghurt
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- Add all the ingredients to your blender or food processor and process for 1 minute. The dressing will be smooth with small bits of lemon zest and cheese.
- Chill until serving.
- 1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
- Preheat oven to 375°.
- Line a standard jelly roll pan with 2 sheets of parchment paper, one on top of the other. It is imperative that you use parchment paper or you won’t be able to get the frico out of the pan. Parchment also gives you prettier more evenly baked cookies and cakes so you will be using this paper often if you don’t already. Makes clean up easy. It is your friend.
- Scatter the cheese over the parchment paper in an even layer. It’s fine if small spots of paper show through. It’ll kind of look like lace.
- Bake 6 minutes or until golden. The darker it becomes the crisper it becomes.
- Hold both layers of parchment and place frico, still on the paper, on a cooling rack.
- Allow to cool until easy to handle before breaking into pieces. The frico will peel right off of the parchment.
- Store in a tightly covered container when completely cooled.