Dress them up

Every night when I was a kid, my mother made a salad. It was never anything fussy—some fresh greens, maybe a sprinkle of half moon radishes, sometimes a chopped up grapefruit wedge or two—but she had a certain knack for putting together the things she turned up in the fridge.

One of my friend's mom's told me recently that this skill—also known as the Throw-It-On-Lettuce-And-Call-It-Dinner technique—is the key to success as a parent, and although I can't say for sure, I have a feeling she's right. I also have a feeling that the key to my mother's particular success was her homemade croutons.

My mother makes excellent croutons. They don't take her long—they're the sort of thing she whips up right before dinner in between setting the table and waiting for the chicken to cook. She throws together a few slices of stale bread, a drizzle of olive oil, a good rub of garlic and rosemary and a generous sprinkle of salt, and in a few minutes, her little toaster oven starts steaming out dreamy crouton smells. They transform things like plain spinach and goat cheese into a salad for gourmets, romaine lettuce and store bought Caesar dressing into a plate from an upscale restaurant.

Recently, we've been making them a lot around here. The garden greens are growing faster than we can keep up with, but beyond radishes and scallions, there isn't yet much to dress them up with. Fortunately, we also can't keep up with the bread (have you been to the new boulangerie in town?!), or the rosemary, and we're only halfway through our winter garlic.

They might not be the key to every success, these homemade croutons, but I plan to keep making them anyway, full steam ahead.


I like to make these in the toaster oven so that I don't have to waste the time and electricity involved in heating a whole oven up, but if you only have a slot toaster, the oven will work fine. Also, I find that a nice, crusty, rustic bread like a sourdough or farmers' loaf works best, but I've used everything from stale hot cross buns to pitas with success.

4 slices rustic bread
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat your oven or toaster oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking tray or toaster oven pan with parchment paper, and arrange the bread slices on top. Drizzle the bread evenly with the oil, and sprinkle the garlic, rosemary, and salt evenly across all four slices. Use your finger to rub the oil and seasonings in and spread them across the bread. Bake for 1o to 15 minutes, or until the bread is toasted a deep golden brown. Transfer the toast slices to a wire rack and once they're cool, crumble or cut them into bite size pieces. Any extras will store for about a week in an airtight container, if you don't devour them first.


Anonymous said...

Ah, yes, there is nothing like the humble crouton to spiff up a salad. So glad you liked them, Sweetie!

Do you remember when I was coking on Whitehead Island how I even used leftover hotdog buns to make them? They were surprisingly good! I didn't have a very sophisticated kitchen out there, but w/ leftover buns, a quick spread of butter, a dash of garlic powder and onion salt, and a broiler, voila, we had croutons! ~xo, Mama

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