The Best Croutons Are Made of Cheese

Good morning. Melissa Clark has a fantastic new recipe in the newspaper we printed last night, folded into blue bags and tossed in the general direction of our print subscribers’ front doors this morning. It’s for a bracing escarole salad with smoky halloumi croutons (above), dressed in a garlicky citronette, with slivered onion, parsley, some pomegranate seeds and fried cheese cubes dusted with smoked paprika.

If you can’t find halloumi, Melissa reports, you can try another firm cheese with a high melting point — queso blanco or paneer, for instance. One of our subscribers, Ross Huelster, reports in a note below the recipe that in Wisconsin you can find “Juustoleipa (hoo-stay-lee-pah), Finnish bread cheese.”

“I read that the curds are similar to feta,” he wrote. “They are pressed and baked. To serve, one grills or sautés the block or cubes. It is delicious and would substitute well for the halloumi. At least in Wisconsin. Or Finland.”

I think that would be a fine salad to serve in advance of a main course of easy chicken kapama, with orzo on the side.

But if three dishes on a Wednesday and the last day in March is too much to consider, I get it. Perhaps you’d like to consider a no-recipe recipe instead, a kind of prompt for culinary improvisation, something simple for the middle of the week that you can make as I suggest, or as something that is entirely your own. (No-recipe recipes are something I provide every Wednesday in this space, and the subject of NYT Cooking’s newest book.)

So, say, pasta with shrimp in a creamy miso-and-butter sauce? Boil the pasta until it’s just al dente, then reserve a cup or two of the water before draining it. Put butter and whatever color miso you happen to have into the empty pot in about a 2:1 ratio, thin it out with the pasta water and whisk everything together into a sauce. Slide some peeled shrimp in there, add the pasta and toss everything around until the shrimp are cooked through. Shower with grated Parmesan and serve. You could do it with scallops in place of the shrimp, or cream in place of the butter. You can make that dish however you like.

Other recipes to consider cooking tonight or real soon: Samantha Seneviratne’s Instant Pot khichdi, a South Asian stew that comes together quickly in a pressure cooker, and Joan Nathan’s tagine of chicken with artichokes and lemon. I like these date-and-walnut bars. And for Good Friday, I’m thinking baked fish and chips.

There are many thousands more recipes awaiting you on NYT Cooking. Go take a look and see what you find.

Then save the recipes you want to cook and rate the ones you’ve made. Leave notes on them, too, if you’ve come up with a hack or ingredient substitution that you want to remember or tell your fellow subscribers about. (Yes, you need to be a subscriber. Subscriptions are what make this whole operation possible. I hope, if you haven’t already, that you will subscribe today.)

We’ll be standing by, in the meantime, if you run into a problem in your cooking or with our technology. Write [email protected] and someone will get back to you. Want to vent about something, or say something kind? You can write to me: [email protected] I read every letter sent.

Now, it’s nothing to do with spinach or flapjacks, but “Spies of Warsaw,” on Amazon Prime, is a fine companion for anyone who thrilled to Alan Furst’s novel of the same name and a terrific introduction to his work for those who don’t know it.

I went way down the rabbit hole on the Long Island serial killer and Suffolk County policing and politics this weekend, via the podcast “Unraveled,” by Billy Jensen and Alexis Linkletter.

I called in to WBUR’s “Here & Now” to talk no-recipe cooking, if you’d like to listen.

Finally, here are The Specials and Amy Winehouse, live in England in 2009, “You’re Wondering Now” into “Ghost Town.” Have fun with that and I’ll be back on Friday.

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