Salad Toppers – Croutons

As summer time hits and the weather heats up we seem to naturally move into salad mode. Cool crisp greens, a light vinaigrette, and a myriad of toppings. As I have been making more salads, mostly to play with vinaigrettes, it has me thinking about salad toppings. While the selection of greens and the dressing sets the tone of the flavor profile, the toppings are where you get to have some fun. From fruits and vegetables, to various nuts, seeds, and grains just about anything is fair game.

One of Will’s and my favorite is croutons. Croutons are simply oiled, seasoned, toasted bread. Just about any kind of bread can be used and you can use any combination of seasonings that suits your fancy. They are serve as a great way to use up bread that is getting stale. And you don’t have to use them with just salad, they make a great snack.

I started making croutons several years ago and can’t bring myself to go back to the store bought kind. For me they fall into that category of “once you have it homemade, you can’t go back.” So I warn you… this could happen to you. It is a good thing though because they are incredibly easy to make and so worth what little time they take.

There are two basic methods for making croutons; on the stove top in a skillet or in the oven. I have tried both numerous times and have found that I get a much more even toasting when I bake them in the oven and am less likely to burn them. Then it’s simply a toss with olive oil, season, bake for a few mins, toss, bake another few mins. Then try not to burn yourself from eating them right out of the oven.

The recipe I’m sharing with you is a base recipe. Nothing fancy, just sourdough bread and some kosher salt. But they sky is the limit on the flavor combinations you can do with it. So play a little. It is amazing how much a little garlic powder, herbs, or fresh grated parmesan cheese added at the last few minutes of baking can add to the croutons.


Croutons

Recipe by: Elisabeth Norris

  • Bread – I used 1/2 of a 1lb loaf of sourdough
  • Olive oil – around 1/8th – 1/4 cup
  • Kosher salt – start at 1/2 teaspoon and add more if needed

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cut bread into one inch cubes. Add the bread to a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle in salt. Using your hands toss well. Spread out between the 2 baking sheets.

Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and toss. Return back to oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes or till golden brown (this could be more or less given your oven so keep an eye on it.)

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