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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Herbed Croutons

Crazy times! I recently hired on with the local school district. I'm very happy because I didn't expect any positions to be available here since the district has been on a hiring freeze. Suddenly having to get ready to go back to a full-time job is keeping me busy. School starts in just a little over a week. I am hoping that this job will not impact my posting too much... I'm sure I will need the soothing effect of playing in the kitchen fairly regularly! Perhaps instead of trying to post 6-7 times a week, though, I will shoot for 4-5.

Despite this craziness, I still like to cook from scratch; it just takes a little more planning. I made these croutons the other night when we had soup and salad. I made a fairly simple soup, so it was not too much extra work to make the croutons from scratch.

While you can make croutons with any type of bread, my favorite is ciabatta. I like how the large holes tend to grab the herbs and, I think, help make them so delightfully crunchy. Cut the bread into small cubes. I shoot for cubes slightly larger than half an inch in each direction. Give the cubes a good drizzle of oil and toss to coat evenly. I found that I prefer using a mildly flavored oil instead of the strong and fruity extra virgin olive oil. That way, the flavor of the oil doesn't compete with the flavor of the herbs.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Prepare the herb mixture and set it aside. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the bread cubes when the pan is heated. Cook, turning occasionally, until the cubes are nice and golden on all sides. Sprinkle the herb mixture when the cubes are getting close to being done. You don't want to add the herbs too soon or they tend to get a slightly burnt taste. Pour the cubes onto a sheet pan and place in the oven. Turn off the heat and let the cubes dry out so they become nice and crunchy upon cooling. Let cool before serving.

Herbed Croutons Herb Mix

1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp parsley
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp sage
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground pepper

Be sure not to use fresh herbs; they tend to clump up on the bread cubes. Lastly, provided they are dried out completely, they keep well for a few days in an air tight container.

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