Is it just me, or are boxed croutons the biggest rip-off going at the grocery store?
I don’t actually know the last time I might have bought croutons in the past, but I certainly don’t see it happening in my future.
Crumby, small, dry cubes of bread that are overly seasoned, kind of stale, and, really, a single salad’s worth in a box …
Or large pieces of hearty bread with seeds, freshly drizzled with olive oil, mixed with herbs and spice, and toasted to crunchy-on-the-outside-a-little-soft-on-the-inside-deliciousness to add by handfuls to your evening (or anytime) salad?
Why is this a question?
Here’s what I do, just varying the breads and herbs to what I have or feel like.
- Roughly chop (or tear, for crisp craggy edges) some nice bread – crusty Italian or French, a bagel, country multigrain, etc.
- Pour some olive oil into a cup and add salt and cayenne pepper; then crush dry ‘herbs de provence’ blend into the cup (Or whatever herbs I have. I like to use some chopped fresh ones but I don’t always have them; someone gave me a couple boxes of nice dry mixes so I use them, too)
- Mix the oil, salt, herbs, and drizzle over the bits of bread.
- Toss everything and cook in the toaster oven on the small baking pan for a few minutes. (You can bake the pieces at 400F for 10 minutes or so, or even broil, with some stirring, until they are crispy enough.)
One of the nice things about doing this yourself is that you can make your croutons toasty without being brittle. A little soft on the inside so you can spear them with your fork, while the outside is crusty.
I usually make large croutons – not like the small dice that come with board games – and put a couple or more handfuls onto the salad for lots of crunch.
Dress the salad (without croutons) just before serving it, then heap the croutons over the top and give another toss so they are distributed, but not soggy from sitting in dressing.
Works with all salads.
(If you want to try this and need some more specific guidelines for quantities, etc. please say so in the comments, or e-mail me – there’s a link in the ABOUT section.)