Why are we here today, ladies & gentleman? Because we love Bread in all of it’s delicious, crusty, chewy glory. But many of us are avoiding this marvel of yeast and wheat due to food allergies or fear of increased weight. For those that truly have an intolerance or even a life-threatening relationship with gluten, perhaps you should not read on. (Please consider transferring to another class, as Croutons 101 is not a good course for you.)
To my remaining students, I must confess that I too, have avoided pizza, crackers, hamburger buns, waffles, sandwiches, pretzels, and all other distant relatives to my very first addiction, Bread. I have blamed my slowed metabolism and increased pounds on bread, because I am not addicted to sweets. (I love a good piece of chocolate like every other red-blooded american girl but I don’t crave dessert.)
But in this course, we are going to learn to throw down our pre-conceived notions on the evils of bread. Instead, we will embrace the method by which I have learned to enjoy my favorite food in the world one nugget at a time.
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups bread cubes, from about 1/2 a baguette or any other crusty loaf
Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine the oregano, salt, garlic powder, and pepper in a small bowl and stir to combine. Place the bread cubes and oil in a medium bowl and toss to combine. Set aside to soak for a few minutes, then add the oregano mixture and toss to coat. Spread the croutons onto a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer. Bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
At this point, you may use the finished product to add crunch to any green salad or to float on top of a cup of soup. But feel free to do as I do and save some in a plastic bag to enjoy as a mid-afternoon snack when I am craving the bread that I denied myself at the restaurant we went to for lunch because I wanted to be good and not eat a sandwich. Deep breath. Repeat after me. Bread is not my enemy!
There are several other crouton recipes that I employ throughout the year. I make a bruschetta-type crisp for caesar salad, a buttery version for BLT salad and a cheese & cornbread beauty for tomato soup. The possibilities are endless. Croutons are also a good use of that beautiful whole-grain loaf that you purchased at the Farmers Market but forgot to eat and now the outside of the bread is kinda hard. (Or, throw chunks of it in the food processor and pulse until you have homemade breadcrumbs. Store in the freezer until you need them!)
In all seriousness, there is nothing like a great piece of warm bread, spread with salted butter or dipped in extra-virgin olive oil. So even though I will pop a few croutons to satisfy a craving in a week when I am cutting down on carbs, I also will ask for another basket of bread at Lucia because it is so soul-satisfying. ❤