In last week’s produce from the CSA, we picked up a number of tomatoes. Enough to have at least one large tomato salad each. Normally, we have them with just tomatoes, salt, pepper, some fresh basil, and drizzled with olive oil, but this time we thought we’d add a few croutons. At scratchin’ central, we don’t buy croutons. Considering you’re getting some toasted, stale bread, with a bit of seasoning, any price would be way too high. After all, we often have stale bread and seasonings, plus we can operate a knife in such a fashion as to form rough cubes of bread. Seems as if we’re all set, right? But wait, it’s nearly 100°F outside, who wants to turn on the oven? Are we out of luck?
Of course not, we’ll just make up our croutons on the stove. Simple as that! And, the best part is that the croutons will fry up in just about the same time as it takes to put together your salad. Maybe there’s some cosmic significance in there. Well, maybe not.
Enough croutons for 2 salads
You can use any kind of bread for this recipe. Possibly even that stuff that comes in a plastic bag. We wouldn’t know, as we use homemade bread. It doesn’t really have to be stale; you can use fresh bread, too. We just think this is a great way to use up some bread that might otherwise go to waste (and it’s a shame to waste food). The salt, pepper, and garlic are really suggestions. You could add other seasonings, too, or instead, just remember that the croutons are probably the supporting players in your salad; you don’t want the flavors to outshine everything else.
Procedure in detail:
Heat oil and garlic. You want the oil hot before adding the bread; otherwise, it will simply soak up the oil and taste, well, oily. So, pour a couple of tablespoons of oil into a skillet and place it over low heat. While warming, you can toss in your garlic slices to start flavoring the oil.
Fry bread and season. Once the oil is hot, add the bread cubes in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. They should sizzle and fry for about 10 to 15 minutes or to desired crispness. Test one from time to time until they are as crisp as you like them.
Remove garlic. While the bread is frying, the garlic will start to brown and get crisp. This is okay, but you do not want the garlic to burn. It will leave a bitter, nasty taste, so, when the garlic has browned, remove it from the pan, and discard. Continue frying the croutons until they’re crisp.
Serve. We immediately placed the croutons over our salad. In fact, we could hear the juice from our tomatoes sizzle as we added the hot croutons. Don’t worry, it won’t cook your salad. Finally, if there is any oil left on the bottom of the pan, drizzle that over your salads, too.
Fresh croutons in 15 minutes. No oven needed. What’s not to like? We went pretty light on the S&P; we can always add a bit more later, and it was nice to have croutons with just a light garlic taste, with a crisp outside, yet a bit chewy toward the center. By making our own, we avoid that super salty, chemically taste that seems pervasive in most commercially-produced croutons. Plus, we used up some bread that might have been tossed (well, not in our household; we always have uses for stale bread). Four stars.