Food

My Sister’s Killer Salad Recommendation

Mark Bittman's Grilled Cheese Salad

My sister Lucy is one of those people who can peek into the fridge, pull out a little of this and a little of that, and then bust out a delicious meal. So, whenever our weeknight meals get into a rut, I turn to her for ideas. Recently she swore by something…

“Mark Bittman’s list of simple salads came out in The New York Times almost a decade ago and it remains THE BEST,” Lucy emailed me. “Whenever I have a dinner party, I make a simple main dish and then one or two of these.”

The list is laid-back and inspiring, and one of her go-tos is #44: “Make a crisp grilled cheese sandwich, with good bread and not too much good cheese. Let it cool, then cut into croutons. Put them on anything, but especially tomato and basil salad. This you will do forever.”

How delicious is that? Grilled cheese with a twist. Thank you, Lucy! The rest of the salad list is definitely worth reading, too.

(Photos by Ali Stafford for Cup of Jo. Recipe by Mark Bittman for The New York Times. Thanks to Franny Eremin for helping with this series.)

  1. What a fun combination!
    Who would have thought of it.
    Grilled cheese and real tomatoes.
    Thanks for the inspiration

  2. Michelle says...

    The salad looks delish! Are the tomatoes grilled?

  3. Emily says...

    YUM! I was just craving grilled cheese today. Love this twist using fresh veggies. I also wonder about putting tomatoes and basil inside the sandwich…?!

  4. Last night I went to FEAST with Chef Michael Smith at his Inn at Bay Fortune on PEI, Canada (a must-do, btw!) and we had a salad of foraged greens and edible flowers with raspberries and ….popcorn?! It was delicious. It was a pretty fancy salad, served over a number of gorgeous veggie purees, sprouts and seeds but I’d definitely be adding bits of popcorn to the occasional salad in the future. My kids will LOVE it:)

  5. Alexis says...

    I believe the proper name for this salad is Panzanella on Crack. Need to eat it!

  6. Looks yummy!!! Gonna try to make it tonight!

  7. genius idea!!! Definitely giving this recipe a try!

  8. DG says...

    Thank you for posting this! Love this as an ideas cheat sheet and an invitation to be creative.

  9. Claire Walker says...

    Made these last night. (Wisely) decided to ignore Bittman’s advice to use “not too much good cheese.” Always more cheese.

  10. Sasha says...

    Guys. This post title is still haunting me. Is it too late to change it??

  11. kimberly says...

    oh, this is so good and timely.
    i was just telling my hub that while i still love cooking, i dont feel the energy for it as i did pre-mom-of-three.
    meals i can assemble (especially this time of year) are essential.

  12. For once I did not have a dark “understanding” of the post title like others :)
    I think I’ll print out the list and make my way through it. Thanks so much for sharing.

  13. Emily says...

    This is the best idea I’ve heard in a long time.

  14. Alexandra says...

    I love hearing “from” Lucy. Greatful for when she’s included in the blog.

  15. Catharine says...

    The second salad on the list (tomato and peach) is AMAZING this time of year.

    • Lucy Kalanithi says...

      YES! #2 ftw

  16. Ariane says...

    This is so awesome! definitely sharing with all my friends

  17. Emily Krisenthal says...

    Jeez, I’m tired. My brain struggled to read that headline as anything but “my sister’s killers recipe” and I was already leaping ahead in my mind trying to make sense of a situation where you’d be recommending a recipe given to you by someone who killed your sister. Really glad it’s not that!

    • Lisa says...

      Ha Ha. I thought exactly the same thing :)

    • Emma says...

      Me too!!!

    • Belle says...

      Same! Haha

  18. Kate says...

    This sounds incredible, but am I the only one* who read this as “My Sister’s Killer…Salad Recommendation”?

    * Quite probably, given that we have a heatwave and I’m a sleep deprived new mum.

  19. Sarah says...

    I just love Lucy… I watched her commencement address for UC Irvine School of Medicine and, even though I’m nowhere near the medical field, it inspired me so much!

  20. Liz says...

    I still have that list from a decade ago!

    • Lara Jones says...

      Same!

    • Claire Millington says...

      Me too!

    • Amanda says...

      Same! It’s especially useful in the summer when I look in the fridge and wonder, “what am I going to do with all this ___?!”

  21. Claire says...

    Sounds delicious! One question: does she dress the salad with any kind of dressing ? maybe olive oil? thanks!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, olive oil and balsamic vinegar — or really any yummy vinaigrette!

  22. Jess. says...

    Yum! My favorite Mark Bittman salad is:
    thinly-sliced fennel, thinly-sliced celery, dressed with fresh lemon juice & olive oil, salt and pepper, topped with freshly-shaved Parmesan. It will blow your mind. xox
    http://markbittman.com/recipe/fennel-and-celery-salad/

    • Same!!! I will also add good tuna packed in olive oil to make it a filling and tasty summer lunch!

  23. When this was published I’m pretty sure I read to #2 and never made it past there because I headed straight to the kitchen. Peaches + tomatoes is a total game changer, and I’ve made it so many times since (also with nectarines!). Thanks for the reminder that I should revisit the rest of the list!

  24. Yum! I was just wondering the other day how Lucy was doing? I truly hope well!

  25. Kathryn says...

    My one and only celebrity fantasy involved Mark Bittman. A few years ago, around the time my child was about to start solids, he wrote a piece about the vegetable market where I buy most of my produce. I fantasied that we would run into him there as we were picking out her first sweet potatoes, and he would offer to make her first meal. It didn’t happen, but when I shared my wish with someone else (who had also read the article), they also had their own wishful vegetable market run-in experience with Mark Bittman! The power of someone who makes what could be hard easy and enjoyable!

  26. Alyssa says...

    Love this! I have tomatoes and basil at home that I need to use up, so I will be making this tonight!

  27. Hannie says...

    Am I sensing that this could also be an even better way to savor the last slice of leftover pizza?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s such a great idea!!!!

  28. Michelle says...

    10 years ago I PRINTED THIS OUT and then I placed it, carefully, into page protectors and into a 3 ring binder. It is destroyed by how many times we have referenced it over the years. I am SO grateful you reposted it and spread the love about these amazing simple salads (btw, 96 ftw – we order extra rice from takeout places just for this!)

  29. Raquel says...

    This looks so good! But most important is, how’s Lucy doing? I was so excited to see your last post about her. Sending her my best wishes!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      she is doing really well, thank you so much for asking!

    • alison norris says...

      She was just on the GOOP podcast. It was a great interview!

  30. I love grilled cheese! I adore the idea of having a salad with cheese!

  31. I love Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. I poached an egg on my very first try! There’s something delightful about someone making cooking so simple.

    Eva

  32. Mara says...

    Question for those who have made this — does the grilled cheese not get soggy from any of the liquids in the salad? Or maybe the grilled cheese pieces are meant to be sprinkled on top immediately before serving…

    • Hannah says...

      I think of it as soaking up the delicious tomato juices and vinaigrette, rather than getting soggy :)

    • Franny Eremin says...

      Mara — I made this last night for dinner and had leftovers today for lunch. It held up really well! Not too soggy at all. :)

      Franny xx

  33. Mark Bittman is such a genius! Sounds like your sis is, too.
    Will definitely make this salad!!!

  34. Awads says...

    i love Bittman. Would you put a dressing on that salad? I think it might need some olive oil and balsamic vinegar, but it doesn’t say….

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, that’s what i do!

  35. Nina says...

    sounds great

  36. Abby says...

    So appreciate the recommendation on the 101 salads! Perfect for my current situation: nearly empty fridge and garden full of tomatoes and herbs. Thank you!

  37. OMG! The grilled cheese croutons?!?! I can’t even. I’m making my husband make this for dinner tonight.

  38. Hannah says...

    Grilled cheese croutons on homemade tomato soup is my absolute favorite!!! Now must try them on a salad…

  39. Simple salad are the way to go! And this is pretty a less guilty way of eating bread :) Although I’d be included to add some Mrs. Balls Peach chutney on the bread for a sweet taste!

    Blu

    • Lisa says...

      GENIUS

  40. SN says...

    This came at the exact right moment…. I am in need of major inspiration for our weekly CSA haul. Take that, fridge full of veggies.

  41. Yes! I love Mark Bittman! His cookbooks (especially How to Cook Everything) are so practical, too.

  42. LAURA says...

    I initially interpreted this post’s title in the darkest way possible :/
    Anyway, looks delicious!

    • Audrey F says...

      hahaha

    • Sasha says...

      Oh my god, me too.

  43. Lindsay says...

    This looks delicious! I listened to Lucy’s interview on the GOOP podcast this morning and was so moved. Lucy, thank you for continuing to share your story with us! xo

  44. Lindsay says...

    Thank you, I love this idea!

    I’m a pastry chef and people usually assume that I’m just as skilled as a cook…..sadly, nope.

    I find that I hit a creativity wall with what to make for dinner , so this is right up my alley :)

  45. Jill says...

    Lucy and I must be kindred spirits. I printed out this list of salad recipes when it was first published, and I still have that original original copy – now stained, faded, and with many of the recipes dutifully checked off as I tried them. The list lives on the shelf with my cookbooks!

    • EG says...

      Ditto! That list is the best. (And now it’s almost quaint, to have a printed-off list of recipes hanging around.)

    • Lorie says...

      THAT tuna salad (mentioned by your reader, Kelly) is amazing!!!! It’s delish and easy (but plates pretty enough for a dinner party! (The article A Case For Canned Tuna, which is noted in the link is also worth a read… “And before the server could take it away, someone picked up the bowl and drank the tangy elixir of lime juice and olive oil that had pooled at the bottom. It was just that kind of salad; you didn’t want to leave any of it behind”. Looking forward to trying Mark Bittman’s list… Thank you.

  46. Oooooh that’s such a genius, yummy idea!

  47. Hadassah says...

    Get in my belly!! Looks so good!

  48. Eloise says...

    YUMMY!!!!

  49. Lisa says...

    Yaaaaaaaaasssss!!!!

    There’s a heatwave in London and this is absolutely perfect