Arugula Caprese Salad with Lemon Basil Dressing and Homemade Croutons – a fresh spin on the classic Caprese salad. Light and fresh with crunchy croutons.
This weekend was the first weekend it really felt like spring. It was warm and sunny and we spent a lot of time outside. We celebrated Easter by going to Fest. Our house is empty and normally, I would make a big brunch or dinner. We are bare-bones in the kitchen department, so we decided to go to Fest instead.
Pro tip // Fest is empty on Easter Sunday. It started to get busy as we were leaving, but it was so nice to not bump shoulders with anyone.
The rides and games at Fest are fun, but the snacks are my favorite thing about going. Yesterday I had a cup of corn with salty garlic and parsley butter. I haven’t stopped thinking about it. I can’t wait to for Jersey corn season. I’m recreating it this summer for sure.
Speaking of summer, we are coming up on salad season. I can eat a salad every day, for every meal, but even more so when it gets warm. The last few places we have lived, we don’t have air conditioning, so in the summer I go out of my way to not turn on the oven. A hearty salad is a perfect thing for dinner when the temperatures rise. You can always add some grilled chicken or shrimp if you wanted more protein.
I always make my own salad dressing. I rarely ever buy bottled dressing. (My kids love Hidden Valley on pizza.) For no other reason other than I really like to make my own.
I keep a fairly well-stocked pantry with different oils and vinegar so I can create something unique and different every time. I love to add fresh herbs (it is a great way to use up any hanging around in your fridge), it adds another layer of flavor and freshness.
This salad can be made ahead of time. Make the dressing and toss it with the vegetables other than the arugula. The longer the vegetables sit in the dressing, the more the flavors soak in. When you are ready to serve, just toss with arugula and add the croutons.
Let’s be honest, sometimes salad is the delivery system for croutons. Homemade croutons are so simple, and a million times better than store-bought. (I do love a store-bought crouton, no judgment from me.) If you have a baguette that you need to use up, this is the answer.
The key to a good crouton is a hot pan with hot oil. If you add the bread before the pan and oil are hot, you will get a greasy piece of bread instead of a crisp and crunchy crouton. I love to add Borsari Salt, I have every flavor and use it for everything, but particularly good here. If you don’t have any, use your favorite seasoned salt.
Tips for making Arugula Caprese Salad with Lemon Basil Dressing and Homemade Croutons //
- You make the dressing ahead of time and toss with the vegetables and cheese. Add arugula right before you serve it.
- Add grilled chicken or shrimp if you would like to add more protein.
- Homemade croutons can be made a day or two ahead of time kept in an airtight container.
- Avocados would also be delicious with this salad.
- Lemon Basil Dressing //
- 1 cup fresh basil
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- Zest from one lemon
- Juice from one lemon
- 3 Tablespoons honey
- 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Croutons //
- Half a loaf baguette, cut into bite-sized cubes
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2-3 teaspoons seasoned salt (Borsari salt is my favorite brand)
- Salad //
- 2 heads baby romaine, chopped
- 1 box baby arugula
- Red onion, finely sliced
- Cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 English cucumber, chopped
- 2 packages mini mozzarella balls
- Flaked sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper
For the dressing //
Add everything except olive oil to the blender. Pulse until smooth. Stream olive oil in slowly. Taste on a leaf and adjust for taste. (Sometimes I add more honey and more acid.)
For the croutons //
Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Make sure the pan is hot before adding half of the olive oil and bread cubes. Add two teaspoons salt. Toss in oil and move in the pan until golden brown and toasted. Add more oil and salt if needed. Store in an airtight container.
For the salad //
Add everything to a large salad bowl. Sprinkle with sea salt. Drizzle with a few tablespoons dressing. (You can always add, you can’t take away and I don’t love a salad that has too much dressing on it.) Add croutons and serve.
If you can't find Borsari salt, you a combination of salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
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