Croutons garnish a spinach salad.
are the little reward we give ourselves for eating a salad.
that there’s anything wrong with salad. I love salad.
Especially when it is topped with crunchy, caloric croutons.
are the cherry on top of a sundae, if the sundae were made
of lettuce and vegetables. They are what transforms an
ordinary salad into a meal.
course, you can always use the pebble-like crouton nuggets
that come in a box, if you don’t like flavor or your
teeth. But if you want croutons worth celebrating, make them
easy. It’s even fun. And the best part is that when you
make them you get to snack on croutons.
began with what is probably the most standard method of
making croutons, baking them in the oven. I wanted my
croutons to be thick, so I used Texas toast (you could also
begin with an unsliced rustic, artisanal bread, but square
slices of Texas toast will yield more croutons per slice).
always best to begin with slightly stale bread, but the loaf
I used was fresh. So I started out by toasting the bread
very lightly before cutting it into crouton-sized pieces.
I placed on a baking sheet along with olive oil, a pinch of
thyme and oregano, plus salt and garlic powder. I tossed
them all together, baked them, flipped them and baked them
some more for a total of just 10 minutes.
they were done, they were golden in color and subtly
flavored, with a delightful crunch.
top croutons use the same idea, but the result is lighter in
texture, with maybe less crunch. For these, I melted butter
into olive oil (I love the blend of flavors) and lightly
sautéed a crushed clove of garlic until it was wonderfully
fragrant and lightly brown on both sides.
discarded the garlic and added thyme, oregano and salt,
tossed in the cubes of bread and sautéed until they were
done. They were so light, you could almost convince yourself
they were healthful, except for the way they soaked up all
that oil and butter.
made another batch that was even worse for you (which
translates to "tastes even better"). I deep-fat
fried two batches; the first at 350 degrees, which is the
low end of deep-frying. These cooked quickly, perhaps 20
seconds in all, including flipping them once. But they were
greasier than I wanted them to be, so I tried it again at
375 degrees, which is toward the high end of deep-frying.
were even faster, taking maybe 15 seconds in all. You have
to watch them closely and get them out of the oil to avoid
overcooking them, but the difference was significant. This
batch was decidedly less greasy.
not saying they weren’t at all greasy. I’m just saying
they were less greasy.
were also the crispiest of all the croutons I cooked, as
well as the easiest to make. It’s just bread, oil and
I tried something completely different: cornbread croutons.
I had them at a restaurant, and they were so good —
crunchy, yet mildly sweet — I knew they were something I
wanted to try.
begin, obviously, you need cornbread. I cheated and used a
mix out of a box (I know, but I was doing a lot of cooking
that day). You can cheat even more and use store-bought
cornbread, or you can make your own.
you have the cornbread, the rest is anyone-can-do-it simple.
A bit of oil, a splash of salt and a few minutes in the oven
is all it takes to create impressive croutons that are as
delicious as they are unexpected.
served mine in soup. Then, the next day, I put them on a
last type of croutons I made are meant for soup, but they
are also good in salads, if you aren’t expecting anything
vegetables, as it turns out, make excellent croutons. I cut
a sweet potato into a dice, tossed the pieces in olive oil
and then lightly coated them in bread crumbs. Then I roasted
them in the oven until they were tender.
flavorful garnish for a vegetable soup, they were perfect.
pieces thick-sliced bread
tablespoons olive oil
teaspoon garlic powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove crusts from bread. If
bread is fresh, toast as lightly as possible. Cut each slice
into 9 pieces.
a baking pan, mix together oil, thyme, oregano, salt and
garlic powder. Add bread pieces and mix to coat. Bake until
golden brown on one side, about 8 minutes. Flip pieces and
bake until golden brown on the other side, about 2 minutes.
serving: 123 calories; 11 g fat; 1 g saturated fat; no
cholesterol; 2 g protein; 6 g carbohydrate; 1 g sugar; 1 g
fiber; 205 mg sodium; 40 mg calcium
pieces thick-sliced bread
tablespoon olive oil
garlic clove, crushed
Remove crusts from bread and, if bread is fresh, toast as
lightly as possible. Cut each slice into 9 pieces.
Place a medium or large skillet over medium-high heat and
add oil and butter. When butter has melted, add garlic and
cook until very fragrant and light brown on both sides.
Remove garlic and add thyme, oregano and salt.
Stir in bread pieces and sauté until golden brown on both
serving: 148 calories; 12 g fat; 4 g saturated fat; 15 mg
cholesterol; 2 g protein; 9 g carbohydrate; no sugar; no
fiber; 205 mg sodium; 39 mg calcium
oil for frying
pieces thick-sliced toast
Pour oil at least 2 inches deep into pan and heat to 375
degrees. While the oil heats, remove crusts from bread and,
if bread is fresh, toast as lightly as possible. Cut each
slice into 9 pieces. When oil is at temperature, add a
handful of the pieces (this will take a few batches).
Watch very closely and flip pieces when bottom is light
brown; this will only take a few seconds. When brown on both
sides — again, not many seconds later — remove with a
slotted spoon or spider and allow to drain on paper towels.
Immediately sprinkle with salt.
serving: 273 calories; 28 g fat; 4 g saturated fat; no
cholesterol; 1 g protein; 6 g carbohydrate; 1 g sugar; no
fiber; 98 mg sodium; 31 mg calcium
of an 8-by-8-inch pan of cornbread
cup oil, preferably corn oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Slice cornbread into crouton-sized pieces, no bigger than 2
inches long by 1 1/2 inches wide. In a baking pan, mix
together oil and salt. Add cornbread pieces and mix to coat.
Bake, occasionally flipping, until lightly browned on all
sides, about 10 minutes.
serving: 370 calories; 21 g fat; 5 g saturated fat; 43 mg
cholesterol; 5 g protein; 41 g carbohydrate; 12 g sugar; 2 g
fiber; 595 mg sodium; 101 mg calcium
4 to 6 servings
diced root vegetables (potato, sweet potato, turnip, beet,
tablespoons olive oil
cup bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Toss diced root vegetables in oil until covered. Sprinkle
with bread crumbs and salt and toss until the bread crumbs
adhere to the vegetables. Roast on baking sheet in oven
until fork tender (the smaller the dice, the faster they
will cook). Serve with soup.
serving (based on 4): 112 calories; 5 g fat; 1 g saturated
fat; no cholesterol; 2 g protein; 14 g carbohydrate; 3 g
sugar; 2 g fiber; 123 mg sodium; 27 mg calcium