One of the most interesting jobs of my past was when I was a salad cook. Honestly, I didn't particularly like it. I don't know about you but finding bugs while washing romaine every day isn't exactly my idea of fun. Regardless, it was definitely a learning experience. It was the first time I was ever in "savory" cooking. Previously, I had strictly stuck to baking and pastries. That job taught me so much about cooking on the line. It taught about plating (even though I still stink at it). It taught about presentation and so much more. One of the more popular salads we had there was this Mediterranean salad. It's very easy to make and I'm sharing the recipe with you. The only difference is at the restaurant, they used roasted red pepper hummus. You can do the same if you'd like. This will likely be the shortest post I'll ever have on this blog, because well...it's a salad recipe. There's not much to it. Despite all that, I hope you do give this recipe a try because it is a pretty great salad.
I'm the type of gal that hates wasting food. There already is a food crisis in many parts of the world and I do what I can to avoid contributing negatively to that already huge issue. I find that bread is one of the most common foods that goes to waste. I totally blame the bread companies. They stuff way too many slices of bread in the packaging. Even for a family of five, it's too much. There is almost always a few slices that get left over or are on the verge of being no longer edible. Lucky for me, there are many ways to use up leftover bread. I decided I'll show you two ways this week.
This is my first way. Croutons. I haven't bought croutons in many, many years now. Why would I? They are extremely easy to make. All you need is some leftover bread and a few more ingredients and you're well on your way to some delicious, crispy, homemade croutons.
I typically free my leftover bread before I use it. This is strictly because I usually notice the bread out of the blue. I place it in a freezer bag and pop it in the freezer. Freezing the bread gives me some time to figure out what I'm going to do with it. It's like it pulls a Zack Morris and stops time. It's really cool and it's why the freezer is your friend. Typically, if you have a soft piece of bread, freezing it can help in the drying out process. Stale bread is key in the two recipes I'm going to show you, including these croutons. If your bread is still moist after freezing them, then you can always toast it on very low heat in the oven for a few minutes. If your bread is stale to begin with and you want to make these the same day, then no need to freeze! Just get started on 'em from the get-go.
I'm starting with some leftover French bread I had in the freezer. It's probably two cups or two and a half cups of bread. This isn't intended to be an exact recipe, although you can use it as so. It's really a tutorial to show you what you can do with the leftover bread.
I place my bread pieces onto a sheet tray covered with a silicone mat. You can cut the bread into small little squares, but I don't find it necessary. As long as you can fit the pieces in your mouth, it doesn't have to be uniform and perfect. These are homemade croutons after all. Try to eliminate as many crumbs as you can, as those are too small and they'll likely burn.
Drizzle olive oil over the top of the bread pieces. Sprinkle over some Italian seasoning, rubbing through your fingers to release the essential oils. Sprinkle a very small pinch of salt and grate some Parmesan or Pecorino over the top. You can eliminate the salt completely if you add cheese. Toss everything together on the tray. Drizzle a bit more olive oil on top.
Bake at 450°F for about 10 minutes. Check on it at the five minute mark.
Sprinkle some more Parmsean over the top and move to a bowl or storage container. Now you have them ready on hand for whenever you make salads or you can eat them as is for a great snack.
See how I do it:
- 2 ½ Cups Stale Bread
- 1 Teaspoon Italian Seasoning
- 3-5 Tablespoons Olive Oil (be slightly liberal with it)
- ¼-1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan or Pecorino (use half before cooking and half after)
- salt to taste (may not need with cheese added)
Toss everything together on a silcone mat or parchment covered sheet pan and bake at 450°F for about 10 minutes. Check on them at the five minute mark. Out of the oven, grate more Parmesan or Pecorino on top. Croutons should be golden brown and crispy.
I'd ditch the salt completely if you're adding Parmesan or Pecorino. Recipe is not specific, because you don't have to have exactly 2 cups of bread. Use up whatever you have on hand. The amounts of everything else will obviously change if the quantity of bread changes. The key here is to start with stale bread. Also, don't over do it. It's easy to use too much cheese, oil, salt or seasoning. You can always add more, but you can't take it out. The oil is really used for color and flavor, but also to re-moisturize the stale bread. You be the judge of how much more or little you need.