My big brother and I developed a taste for croutons at a tender age. Crunchy, salty, garlicky, herby -- what's not to like? We'd eat them straight from the bag...
While I still find the store-bought kind fairly addictive, I've since been exposed to something even tastier and undoubtedly a bit healthier- the homemade kind!
So when my husband pointed out that the nice loaf of sesame seed-covered Italian bread I'd bought a week ago was still sitting out on the counter in its paper bag and had gone completely stale, it seemed like a good opportunity to make some of these hand-cut beauties.
The process is quite simple and fairly quick. Consider this your recipe since this is not really the kind of thing you need exact measurements and proportions for.
You can use any kind of bread as long as it is stale (or you make it stale by toasting it in the oven or toaster.) Start by chopping the stale bread into 1-inch cubes.
Then chop up a couple cloves of garlic and whatever fresh herbs you plan to add - parsley, basil, oregano and thyme are all lovely options. Rosemary would be nice, too but it has a more assertive flavor that may not pair well with everything.
Heat a couple teaspoons of olive oil in a big skillet and sautée the garlic over medium heat until fragrant (but don't burn it!) then add the herbs, a generous amount of sea salt, many grinds of black pepper and the bread cubes. Toss well to coat and sautée for a couple minutes, stirring often.
If you'd like your croutons even a bit crisper and drier than they get in the skillet, you can broil them briefly (and I do mean briefly -- depending on your broiler, 30 seconds might be plenty of time -- it's very easy to burn things to a crisp under the broiler...), turning once to ensure even browning and prevent charring. Or you could also turn them out onto a baking sheet and bake them for 15 or so minutes, too (but I'm not going to recommend this approach because then you'd have one more thing to wash and I am lazy...)
These definitely make a salad special and help turn it into a real meal. I used some of mine in this salad of the first baby arugula and spinach from our garden, shredded carrot, sliced cucumber, dried currants, and hard boiled egg with a citrusy vinaigrette. Delicious!
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