If I'm going to eat an entree salad for dinner, it must include something pretty indulgent to balance out the extreme healthiness of all the raw vegetables. Today's indulgence is the butteriest, cheesiest, garlickiest, most delicious homemade croutons I've ever tasted. They are incredible and I could eat them ALONE as an entree and be perfectly satisfied.
I often can't finish a whole loaf of really good bakery bread before it gets stale. Well, actually, that's a bald-faced lie. I can much too easily polish off a loaf of bread in a couple of days, but I try not to! So when the butt-end of a great loaf of bread (Rustica's multigrain, for example) starts to get a little old and difficult to cut, I dice it into cubes or pulse it in a food processor and store in the freezer. It's a great way to always have high quality breadcrumbs on hand.
Tonight I took some frozen bread cubes, tossed them with melted butter and olive oil, pasted garlic, parmesan cheese, and chives. After a brief stint in the oven, they came out golden and crisp on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, and completely exploding with a toasted garlic and parmesan flavor.
I served these rich croutons on a bed of romaine with chopped cucumber, carrot, radish, cherry tomato, and hard boiled egg. The dressing was another indulgence: homemade buttermilk, herb, and blue cheese. But without a doubt, the best part of this salad was the magical little baby cheesy toasts. They're so good, I'm bringing them to lunch tomorrow with another big green salad and I don't even care if I get garlic breath.
Garlic Parmesan Croutons
3 cups bread cubes (it helps to use best quality you can find)
2 Tbsp melted butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, pasted * (see note)
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese (again, quality counts)
1 heaping Tbsp chopped chives or other herbs, optional
*Note: Pasting garlic is one of my favorite kitchen techniques. To paste garlic, chop a clove with a big pinch of kosher salt, then smoosh on your cutting board with the wide side of your knife. Alternate chopping and smooshing until it forms a paste. This will ensure you don't get a big bite of garlic, just lovely flavor permeating all your croutons.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place your bread cubes in a large bowl. Melt your butter and add oil and pasted garlic. Pour over bread crumbs and mix thoroughly to coat all the bread with the oil/butter. Toss in cheese and herbs and stir again.
Spread bread on a baking sheet in single layer. Cheese might not stick to bread, that's OK, it will still taste great on your salad! Bake until cubes are golden brown and slightly crispy. It took my oven 12 minutes. They get crispier as they cool. Serve with soup or salad.
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