24 June 2009

The Last Thing

I thought this being a food blog and all that I should offer up at least one recipe this week. And very appropriately, I thought I'd tell you about the last thing.

That's something I seem to say a lot. Like starting a sentence with "The last thing I have to do is ..." There's never really a last thing. I mean, even the couple sitting blissfully on the beach with a drink in hand will need someone to run to the store eventually for more vodka or limes, right?

In between the chores, dinner, the kids and the pets, treat yourself to a few niceties. Like croutons. I sometimes find myself pulling together a dinner and at the last minute thinking that the only thing left is the croutons. It sounds so meaningless, but imagine a great salad you love topped with crisp cubes of salty, crunchy goodness. Or sprinkle them on soup. Whiz 'em in the food processor and top your pasta with them. The possibilities are limitless, and this handy little tip will make you loath those boxed cubes of stale bread and love the leftover baguette.

Croutons are simple to make. The recipe goes something like this: Cube bread* then toss with just enough olive oil to coat. Season generously with salt, pepper and anything else you like (think herbs, red pepper flakes, crushed garlic and the like). Then apply heat to toast them up. It literally takes a couple of minutes. This can be accomplished in a medium oven for about five minutes, on the stove top in a skillet or even in a pan over the grill. If you've chosen the stovetop or grill method, you'll need to give the pan a shake every now and then to evenly brown. Those made in the oven will crisp nicely all on their own. Cool croutons and use immediately or store in an airtight container for a day or so.

* Stale or slightly stale bread works best, but fresh bread will work. Just note that the more moist the bread, the longer the cook time. Use any type of bread you like including plain old sandwich loaf bread.

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