croutons, or making salads friendly

[written 05/09/06]

hi there ~ still waiting on some yarn deliveries, plugging away on that shawl o’ mine, and generally keeping up with school and work. as part of the whole eat local challenge, i’ve been cooking and preparing my own meals a lot. at least when i’m not clearing out the pantry of all the instant and frozen meals i’ve squirreled away inadvertently for months now.

anyhow, i really like jae’s posts – she of domesticaffair.com (are you still drinking your lemon water in the morning? i’ve been semi-successful with that, but lately a bit slacking.) and recently she wrote about making friends with salads. yeah. now i’m totally willing to be friends, it’s just that salads aren’t very friendly to me. no fat, no grease, just green and supposedly so yummy and so good for you and blah blah blah. but! i forgot about a friend we have in common: croutons. sigh, now there’s a pefect finger food, a lovely snack, and the greatest combo of crunch and taste. (jae has a nice list of other things that can be added to make salads more palatable, definitely check it out. but in my kitchen, it’s all about the bread.)

deborah madison has a simple recipe for crouton-making in her delicious vegetarian cooking for everyone (which i’ll be forever grateful liz turned me on to) and, since it’s so very basic in the duh-slap-your-forehead kind of way, i’m summarizing here for your stomach’s pleasure. (or rather tongue’s or mouth’s, right? hm.)

you get your basic bread – any type works, i usually use baguettes or really any crusty breads that are just about to go stale. cut them into your favorite crouton size (i like big croutons myself), add a little olive oil to a skillet and toast the bread over medium-high heat “until crisp and golden.” lovely. eat a few. then, move the bread into a little bowl and, using the same skillet, add in some chopped garlic and herbs.

here it get’s all subjective – i like a fair amount of garlic so for about a cup and a half of croutons, i’ll throw in two generous tablespoons of garlic whereas the normal person might prefer just one. then, herb-wise, add any herbs you like. really, it’s just bread – what can go wrong! ;) madison suggests rosemary, thyme, marjoram and, my favorite, sage. you can throw in a mix or just use one herb. you’ll want roughly a 3:1 ratio for herbs to garlic for the first batch – after that, you’ll know how much is too much or not enough, etc. so, just saute the herbs and garlic and then stir in the croutons. add some seasoning – a bit of salt and pepper, a little bit of sherry or red wine vinegar and that’s it. delish delish!

and that is how i ate this lovely little salad. i forgot how nice it is to crunch away and discover that yay, another crouton has been unearthed by the current forkful of salad. yes, i eat my greens so that i can eat my bread. that’s the kind of girl i am. now, i just have to force myself to close the lid of the crouton can since the salad is all gone. mmm.

bon appetito. it’s a gloomy overcast may day here in los angeles ~ hope the sun’s shining where you are.

p.s. gratuitous yarn shot for the fiber folks. that’s 315 yards of double ply superwash mentioned earlier. love it.