Introduction: Liven Up Boring Salads With Homemade Croutons
Tired of bland salads? Tired of going for a slice of bread, only to find that the loaf isn't as fresh as you last remember?
A few years ago I often found myself buying lettuce with the best of intentions (eating it), only to find that it had gone bad before I'd gotten around to it. I also hated going for a slice of bread, only to find out that it too had gone bad. Then it crossed my mind - why not use the bread to make homemade croutons? I mean, how hard could it be?
Step 1: Get Your Ingredients Together
- 1/3rd to 1/2 half a loaf of bread. In my case, I had a loaf of homemade bread that didn't turn out so great - it was kind of course in texture, and a bit dense. Not great for a sandwich, but great for croutons! Pretty much any kind of bread will work, but denser breads will work a little better.
- 1/3rd to 1/2 cup (~80-125 ml) of oil. I usually use canola oil, because that's what I most often have on hand. If wanting to make croutons for a Greek salad, you might want to give olive oil a try. Also, the more bread you are turning into croutons, the more oil you will need. I'd start off with the lesser amount, though.
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) onion powder
- 1/4 tsp (1.5 ml) salt
- Pepper to taste
(If you want and try other spices, go for it. I like to think that cooking isn't an exact science. If it seems like a tasty idea, try it!)
- One large bowl.
- One small bowl or cup.
- A baking sheet/pan.
- A spoon.
- An oven.
Here's a top tip: save empty glass jars that are used for olives/maraschino cherries. They make great spice jars, as they hold a decent amount, they're clear, so you can see what's in them, and you can write on the lids with permanent marker. That, and for a buck or two, they even come filled with something delicious! Just be sure to keep them out of direct sunlight.
Step 2: Cube Your Bread
Cut your bread into little chunks. I usually do them somewhere between 1-2 cm cubes. Toss your bread cubes into your large bowl.
Step 3: Mix Your Oil and Spices
In the small bowl, mix your oil and spices together as best you can. Some of the heavier spices will tend to sink to the bottom. That's fine. (The picture here is before I mixed everything together)
After doing this a time or two, you'll get an idea of what other spices you might want to throw in there. Making a Cesaer salad? Try throwing in a little hot mustard or fish sauce. Other ingredients you might want to try: Parmesan cheese, dried rosemary, celery salt, or even a little seasoning salt. I mean, what's the worst that can happen? You waste part of a loaf of bread that would have gone bad anyway.
Step 4: Drizzle the Oil Mixture Over the Bread
Using the spoon, drizzle a spoonful of the oil mixture over the bread, then give the whole bowl of bread chunks a stir. Give the oil mixture a stir, then grab another spoonful of oil mixture and drizzle it over. Keep doing this until you've drizzled all the oil over the bread.
The trick here is to make sure that you aren't downing each cube of bread in oil. Because of the amount of spices used, you don't need to totally soak them.
Step 5: Bake It
Spread out the bread cubes on the baking sheet. Place them in the oven at 375 degrees F (190 C) for 10 minutes. When the time is up, shuffle them around a bit, and put them in for another 10 minutes. If they still don't seem very crispy, throw them in for another 5.
The end goal here is to crisp them up - not turn them into little blocks of carbon. Don't let them get too crunchy, as they will tend to get even crunchier after you've pulled them out of the oven and let them sit for a bit.
Step 6: Enjoy!
Grab some lettuce (or your favourite greens), some dressing, and the cooled down croutons, and have yourself a salad.
I've found that these homemade croutons will stay quite crunchy even after sitting for half a day in a packed lunch. Store your croutons in a sealed container. I find they will keep for at least a week or two (assuming I haven't eaten them all as a snack). If you've used cheese or fish sauce in them, you might want to store them in the fridge, otherwise they should keep just fine on the counter.
Again, feel free to play around with the spices to find what you like. Hopefully in doing so, you'll actually eat that lettuce you've bought, and use up that bread before it goes bad.