The other night we had company coming over for dinner and I had planned on grilling steaks and serving them with roasted red potatoes, asparagus and a Caesar salad. As I was prepping the ingredients that afternoon I realized I didn’t have any gluten-free bread in the house to use for croutons on the salad. Now there was no way I had time to run to the store and even though the salad didn’t have to have croutons, I like some type of “crunch” in my salads.
Taking stock of what I had on hand (bottled Caesar dressing, romaine lettuce, Parmesan cheese, tomatoes,) I decided to make crunchy Parmesan cups and fill them with a simply dressed salad, which is easy and took less time than if I had run to the store. And they add a bit of “wow” to the meal without a lot of effort. I also found some frozen shrimp which I decided to saute and then add to the salad. It was a huge hit and again, simple and quick.
As I was putting the Parmesan salad cups together I thought how easy it would be to make these once a week, using whatever fresh greens and leftovers I had in the fridge.
Leftover proteins like chicken, pork or beef could be thinly sliced and added.
You can use different greens like spinach, spring mix, or even iceberg.
Top with fresh tomatoes like I did or perhaps chopped cucumber, sliced red onion, avocado, etc.
Toss with bottled Italian or Caesar dressing, your own homemade dressing, or a simple olive oil/balsamic drizzle.
Anything you can think of that you would eat with Parmesan cheese would work! I would go simple though and you don’t need a lot of added richness because these Parmesan cups are super rich and intense.
I have used Parmesan cheese wedges, which I grated myself and Parmesan that comes already shredded, like Kraft, and they both work. When the packaged cheese is on sale about once a month, I can pick one up for a couple of bucks, which makes this a pretty inexpensive dish, especially if you use leftover proteins.
3 WAYS TO MAKE PARMESAN CUPS –
You can make Parmesan cups using several different techniques. Really, it’s whichever way works best for you.
The only ingredient you need is fresh grated Parmesan cheese, using 1 1/2 cups of cheese will give you 6 cups. (Don’t use the powdered kind that comes in a jar.)
In The Oven…2 Ways
If making these in the oven, a silicone baking mat is really helpful and makes a huge difference in how the cheese bakes. They vary in size and price and can be found at most stores selling kitchen tools. I bought mine at Bed Bath & Beyond for $15. A friend actually asked me if I thought she could make these without the silicone mat and so I tried it and while it had a delicious flavor, it cooked faster than I wanted, which made it crack a bit when I made my cups. So no, you don’t have to have one but keep an extra vigilant eye on the cheese cups as they cook.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees .
Place a silpat mat (silicone baking mat) on a baking sheet.
Place 6 1/4 cup mounds of grated parmesan on mat and gently tap down until each mound is flat (about 5 inches in diameter.)
Bake till golden and bubbly, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Using a thin spatula either…
Quickly transfer each to an upside down muffin cup and drape over the tin. Gently press the cheese around the cups, using a paper towel (to keep your fingers from burning.) Let cool till firm, about 5 minutes.
Quickly transfer each to the inside of muffin cups and gently mold to fit the shape of the muffin tin. You can use the bottom of a drinking glass to help mold.
In A Skillet –
Heat non-stick skillet over medium heat. Once skillet is hot, sprinkle your cheese into even 6 inch circles. Once melted, flip over and cook for a few more seconds.
Using a spatula, transfer the cheese circle and set over or in a muffin tin or drape over an inverted drinking glass. (Push sides down or up, depending on whichever method you’re using or just let drape naturally over the side.)
These would make great appetizers for a get-together and if you’re having a crowd over, make mini cups using a mini muffin tin if you want.
This is how the cups looked without using a silicone mat…a bit darker on the edges and thicker than I wanted but they still tasted great.
Any type of greens and dressing of your choice.
Add some colorful, seasonal veggies…
Serve as is or add chicken, shrimp, pork, or beef.
I absolutely love these Parmesan cups. I had honestly kind of forgot about this recipe until the other night but now that I’ve made them again, I plan on doing so much more often. Since going gluten-free I don’t eat sandwiches like I once did for lunch and I’m thinking these would jazz up an occasional lunch. In fact we have leftover ground beef which I’m going to mix with some tomatoes, onions, lettuce and avocado. I’m going to stuff a Parmesan cup with that, top it with some salsa and enjoy a tasty, economical, and quick lunch.
*The Parmesan cups are gluten-free as long as you check the label and make sure it wasn’t processed on equipment touching wheat.