Tag Archives: salad toppers

Salad Fix: A Healthyish Addiction

Maple creemees, Halyard ginger beer, Meyer lemons, chile crisp, Wordle. I don’t have many addictions, but the ones I have are strong. None of us go looking for more addictions, but they are wily. They sneak up and find you in places you’d least expect. Like, in your salad.

What we have here is a double header addiction—a sweet, creamy dressing and a salty crunchy topping that can be used on their own or together, on salad or on pretty much any veggie or side that needs a little cha-cha.

This particular addiction two-fer came from my young friend and culinary adventurer Mason McNulty. Mason moved to New York a few years back, and added foodie to her adulting repertoire. She recently started sending out a weekly newsletter with recipes she’s developed as a young professional with boundless energy, enthusiasm and creativity for cooking, but limited time, space and budget.

Mason’s recipes come with detailed instructions and touches that take new cooks by the hand and say, “get it together people–you can do this!” She separates out pantry, fridge and specialty ingredients; she lists necessary equipment; she includes the ingredient amounts measured in multiple ways, and those amounts in the ingredients as well as in the steps. She is the anti-slacker.

So, as one would expect, when I fell in love with her latest recipe combo, I slackered them right up (or down) to my capabilities. I am delivering them to you, BUT I am also attaching Mason’s original instructions and pictures so you can choose your adventure. Get the bare bones version here, and then click on Mason’s step by step version with pretty pictures. But wait there’s more! If you want to get Mason’s recipe newsletters, along with a little vicarious whiff of NYC living, just email her at [email protected]

This recipe combo of Creamy Date and Shallot Dressing + Toasty, Crispy, Nutty Topping was entititled: “How to Make Any Salad or Vegetable Taste Great.” That says it all. The dressing is surprisingly simple and ridiculously good. As I was pondering what to use as an excuse for more dressing Mason suggested “a stick from the backyard” and I swear it would work. So there’s that.

And then comes the topping, which is like almond brittle and homemade croutons got into a brawl and ended in a shattered heap, as BFFs. It has it all—crunchy, salty, sweet, a touch of citrus, optional heat and herbs with juuuuuust enough grease to feel indulgent but not irresponsible. It’s Smartfood vs Cheetos, but way better than either. Mason shows it as a topping for roasted asparagus. I’ve used it to add crunch to everything from caprese salad to egg salad, and I’m seeing it on pretty much every soup in my future.

So here you go. Happy 4th, because apparently the 1st is the new 4th and we’re in it! Don’t forget to click on Mason’s instructions for better pics and the full experience.

Part 1: Creamy Date and Shallot Dressing

Yields 1.5 – 2 cups dressing


  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 2 ounces dried dates, measured without pits (~ scant ½ cup, loosely packed)
  • 1 small shallot (~1/4 cup)
  • 1⁄2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1⁄3 cup +1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Prep the ingredients: Pit the dates and roughly chop. Finely chop the shallot.
  2. Complete the initial blend: combine the chopped dates and shallots, the dijon (1 tablespoon), and the apple cider vinegar (1⁄2 cup) in a blender (a bullet blender works really well for this if you have one). Blend until well combined but still somewhat chunky
  3. Complete second blend: Add the olive oil (1⁄3 cup + one tablespoon), plus a big pinch of salt and a few cranks of pepper and blend until very smooth and emulsified. It will look like tahini! Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary
  4. Store: This dressing thicken in the fridge, but you can re-warm it by running warm water on the sides and shaking the container.

The killer combo

Toasty, Crispy, Nutty Topping AKA Salad Granola AKA Salad Crack

Yields ~1 cup (Pro tip: no shame in doubling it)


  • 1⁄2 cup (generous) sliced almonds*
  • 1⁄3 cup (generous) panko
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt
  • ¾ tsp (or more, packed) lemon zest
  • 1 tsp (generous) honey
  • 1/2 clove garlic* grated or finely chopped
  • optional: Red pepper flakes, fresh or dried herbs, lemon juice


  1. Prep the ingredients:  Zest 1 teaspoon of the lemon (should be a packed 1 teaspoon); Grate or chop garlic clove *(add the other half if you like extra garlic!
  2. Fry the almonds: Add the olive oil (2 tablespoons) to a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the sliced almonds (heavy 1⁄2 cup) and cook until golden brown, stirring every so often with a rubber spatula (or whatever tool you want). This will take 5-8 minutes, depending on your stove. You will hear the nuts crackling and popping during the cooking process.

*Edie’s note here- I burned my first batch, so trust your eyes and nose more than the clock). Also, super slackers can start with Trader Joe’s sliced toasted almonds and get them hot before adding the panko.

  1. Add the panko: Still over medium heat, add the panko (heavy 1⁄3 cup) and mix. Cook until golden brown, an additional 45 seconds – 1 minute
  2. Optional: Add the garlic: Still over medium heat, add in the garlic (1⁄2 clove, now grated) and cook for just 45 seconds. Turn off the stove and remove the pan from the heat. Let cool for 5 minutes. Taste and feel free to add the other half of the clove if that’s your jam.
  3. Season the topping: In the same frying pan add in salt (a generous 3 finger pinch, or to taste), lemon zest (3⁄4 teaspoon, or more to taste), and honey (generous 1 teaspoon). Mix together thoroughly and add another pinch of salt if desired. Make this your own by adding red pepper flakes, fresh or dried herbs, lemon juice, etc.
  4. Store: Let the topping cool and then store in a room-temperature location. If you are a monk or have carb discipline it will last 3-5 days. Add however much you want on whatever dish you are serving it with. Some grated parmesan is delish too.

Did I mention the original recipe? Just testing you.  Get it here. To get on her list say hey to Mason at [email protected]

Spring Chickens, and Lots of Eggs

Spring is trying to poke through. At least the chickens are feeling it.

Spring is trying to poke through. At least the chickens are feeling it.

If you have neighbors with chickens you might be getting a lot of eggs right now. And really, it makes sense. If I were a northeastern chicken I would not be giving up the goods until just about now. We had quite a winter. And now that it’s relaxing its grip, we’ve got eggs.

This is a good thing, because as it turns out, the aforementioned salad week is actually going to have to be salad month. The past week has reminded me of all the great salads out there, like edamame avocado citrus, shaved asparagus, massaged kale, as well as all the delicious ways to create a deconstructed lunch. It leads me to think, why wasn’t I doing this all along? But that would take away the springtime angst I depend on for balance.

Today, we’re talking about salad toppers. One staple in our house is coconut “bacon.” I did a little blind taste test with my peeps (who are admittedly a bit gun-shy of my experiments after discovering black beans in their brownies and shredded cauliflower in their mac and cheese. Poor dears.) Anyway, like real New Englanders they again gave two thumbs most enthusiastically up to the maple syrup versions that I tried, so I’m sticking to those.

I tend to go a bit overboard on food combining, especially when it comes to toppers. But nothing gives mealtime heft to a salad like the ordinary and incredible egg. Furthermore, fully self contained eggs are the ultimate portable food so they are a natural for Bring It!

Hard boiling eggs ought to be easy, but still every time I do it I have to refer to a grimy index card tucked behind my stove that tells me exactly how many minutes to boil them, let them sit covered and then rinse in cold water. Here are two awesome methods—baking and steaming—both of which will set you free from the grimy index card. The first lets you cook a heap load of eggs—as many as you can fit on your over rack. The second takes slightly less time and the resulting eggs are slightly easier to peel. At any rate, if egg peeling challenges you watch this video (spoiler alert: run them under cold water while peeling.)

So here you go, you future queens and kings of deviled egg overabundance. Chickens, get on your marks!

Method 1, from Alton Brown.

Position an oven rack in the middle of your oven. Thoroughly dampen a kitchen towel and lay it over the rack. Load that rack up with as many eggs as you like, as long as they don’t touch. Turn your oven on to 320° F and let your eggs bake for 30 minutes. Then, pull the rack out and grab the four corners of the towel to create a little cradle for the eggs. Carry the towel with the eggs out of the oven and transfer the eggs to an ice bath. Let them chill out until you can handle them. Dry them off if you’re making Easter eggs, or peel them if you plan to eat them.

  • Pros: Volume volume volume! Yes of course you need two dozen!
  • Cons: Takes more total time (but it’s brainless time)
High and dry--the perfectly easy way to cook your eggs.

High and dry–the perfectly easy way to cook your eggs.

And Method 2, from Ali Slagle

In a big pot with a metal steamer inside, bring 1 inch of water to a boil. Add your eggs directly from the fridge to the steamer—6 fit without overcrowding. Cover the pot and let the eggs cook for 12 minutes (6 minutes for soft boiled). If you plan to eat them cold, transfer the eggs to an ice bath and let them chill out until you can handle them, then peel them.

  • Pros: Quick—you’re boiling an inch of water, not an entire pot; you can easily make them soft boiled too.
  • Cons: You can’t go for mass production as with the oven method.