Lovin’ Fresh is a series of recipes
designed to showcase produce gathered
from local farms or grown in my own garden.
It’s been brought to my attention that croutons aren’t “much of an entry” (this from a man that goes pale at the mere mention of his participation in the nightly dinner preparations), but I beg to differ. While making your own croutons isn’t hard, it’s something most folks rarely think to do. The recipes I post aren’t meant to be revolutionary. Rather, they are here to prompt you, noble Eat.Drink.Better readers, to embrace the freshest, local food you can find. Homemade croutons made with a fresh herb butter fit in perfectly with that scheme, don’t you think? I certainly do.
What I like best about these croutons is that they really lend themselves to so much more than just a salad topper. For instance, as summer comes around, I’ll dice some just-off-the-vine-tomatoes, tossed them with sea salt, black pepper, and extra virgin olive oil. Then I let those sit for a bit to draw out the juices before tossing in the croutons to soak up said juices. Less than 10 minutes after I start, I have a delectable and filling little side dish that screams, “summer time, and the livin’ is easy!”
Of course the croutons are also superb in soups (saltines will never satisfy you again). And sometimes I even toss them on pasta to soak up some of the extra sauce. With fresh herbs really taking off in May, it’s the perfect time to get in the habit of making your own herb butters and croutons. So, go ahead, make a double batch of these crunchy add-ins and see where they take you on a whim! I also have a habit of sneaking a couple as a snack when I get home from work. They’re so good any way you please and so simple to make that even “no way, I can’t make dinner!” man has to admit that.
BASIL GARLIC CROUTONS
Adapted from The Moosewood Restaurant Kitchen Garden Cookbook
1 stick of softened butter
2 T. finely chopped fresh basil
1 1/4 t. finely chopped fresh oregano
1 large garlic clove, finely minced
generous pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 F. Slice baguette into 1/2 inch cubes and spread onto a baking sheet. Toast in oven until crisp but not golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and place in medium mixing bowl. Set aside.
In a small bowl, place softened butter, herbs, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix well. Allow to sit for at least an hour to let flavors marry. Do not place in refrigerator unless leaving overnight (in which case, soften again in microwave).
Combine herbed butter with croutons in bowl, tossing well. Return croutons to baking sheet and toast in 400 F oven again for 10 minutes, this time toasting until golden. Allow to cool and store in ziplock bag for up to several weeks. .
(makes 4 cups)