My stepsister-in-law is pretty tough. For example, if she were the leader of a gang, her gang's color would be pink, and if you showed up in her 'hood wearing, say, purple, she would cut you. With her needlepoint needle. And gang initiations would involve quilting, antiquing, and a Scrabble deathmatch. The woman is hardcore. So when she recently threatened to stop making me her special croutons unless I posted them on the bl*g, I took her seriously.
So here we go.
Croutons. I can usually take or leave them. I generally don't add them to salads at home, and in restaurants I pick around them. But these croutons are special. My stepsister-in-law made me a batch for my birthday this year; her intention, I believe, was that I toss them with salad or float them in soup. But instead I ate them like they were potato chips. Taking a handful from the cupboard and nibbling while I worked. Just a couple with my lunch. Et cetera.
Since then, I've actually had these croutons on my stepsister-in-law's delicious caesar salad and with my favorite tomato soup. And they're quite nice. But when she makes the batch I am owed for this post, I will stand in my kitchen wearing my pink bandanna eating croutons in handfuls.
Herbed Garlic and Parmesan Croutons
3-4 large garlic cloves, minced (depends on how garlicky you want them to be)
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon salt plus additional to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1 Red Hen seeded baguette (the best bread to use), cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 7 cups) (or whatever size you want your croutons to be)
1/4 cup finely grated fresh Parmesan
In a small saucepan combine the garlic, oregano, basil, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, and oil and simmer the mixture for about 5 minutes. In a bowl toss the bread cubes with the oil mixture, spread them in a jelly-roll pan (or just a cookie sheet), and bake them in the middle of a preheated 350°F oven for 8 minutes. Sprinkle the croutons with the Parmesan and bake them for 7 minutes more, or until they are golden. Sprinkle the croutons with the additional salt (if you want) and let them cool. The croutons keep in an airtight container for 1 week. Serve the croutons as a topping for tossed green salad - or eat as you would potato chips. 1 tip - we have found that using a slightly stale baguette makes the croutons a little more crunchy - but it is harder to cut the cubes. Therefore, sometimes I buy a fresh loaf, cut the cubes and let them sit for a day (or so) and them make the croutons.
And in case you're interested in eating them with a good salad, I highly recommend my stepsister-in-law's caesar. And I'm not saying that because she threatened to put a cap in my ass. It is, in fact, my very favorite caesar salad.
Put into blender:
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic (or more if you like)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
Blend those ingredients and then add 1/2 cup oil (while blender is on) and blend again.
Most importantly, it needs to set for at least 1 hour in the fridge before use (it's pretty tasteless if you use it before 1 hour). It will then keep for at least a week in a closed jar, so you can have salad several times.