Our Favorite Salad

Our Favorite Salad, with Homemade Croutons

This recipe goes along with my March 2022 TU story. Read it here.

This salad is super simple and there’s no better way to name it than simply Our Favorite Salad, because that’s what it is. I’ve made this salad hundreds of times over the years, for quick weeknight dinners, for guests, for special occasions and for anytime in between. All three of my children have stood at the kitchen counter and whisked the dressing in the salad bowl, following directions as I watched and requested a bit more of this and another splash of that. The heart and soul of this salad is the dressing, and it’s a simple, cheater-type of Caesar, made with ingredients typically found on hand. I always mix this dressing in the salad bowl, dump the greens on top, and then toss it together. It’s got extra virgin olive oil, lemon, a bit of mayonnaise for creaminess, and Parmesan, grated on a microplane to make it fluffy and melt-in-your-mouth. I doubt those college kitchens have a microplane, and if you don’t either, a box grater does the trick. What’s important is getting the balance of oil to acidity, creaminess and the salty bite of cheese. The tender, soft butter lettuce greens are a great vehicle for getting this dressing into your mouth. And homemade croutons, though an extra step, have both crunch and chew and are delicious. If you don’t want to make them, I would choose toast made from a good loaf of bread, served on the side, over store-bought croutons.

Our Favorite Salad, with Homemade Croutons

Recipe by Caroline Barrett




  • Lemon-Parmesan dressing (recipe follows)

  • One head Boston or Butter lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces

  • 2 cups homemade croutons (recipe follows)

  • Parmesan, for serving


  • Make the dressing in the bowl of a large salad bowl. Add the salad greens and toss to coat, scraping up the dressing as you toss. Add the croutons, top with more Parmesan and serve immediately.
  • Lemon-Parmesan Dressing:
    Makes about 1 cup

    ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
    Juice of ½ lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
    2 tablespoons mayonnaise
    1 teaspoon granulated garlic
    Pinch kosher salt
    ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (see note)
    Black pepper

    Whisk together the olive oil, lemon, mayonnaise, garlic and salt until smooth. Add the Parmesan and season with black pepper. 

    Note: if you have a microplane, use it to grate the Parmesan into fluffy, light shreds that melt into the dressing. If you only have a regular box grater, use the smallest holes and it will still be good. 

    Homemade Croutons
    Makes about 4 cups

    ½ loaf of stale bread, cut into cubes
    Olive oil
    Pinch salt

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, toss together the bread cubes with a drizzle of olive oil. Toss well, and drizzle again. Repeat until the bread cubes are all lightly coated. Spread out on the baking sheet in a single layer, season with salt and bake until golden brown all over, about 15 minutes. Check halfway through and rotate the pans. Keeps in an air-tight container for three days. 

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