We love all kinds of bread, and that includes biscuits, pizza crusts, and the crunchy category: croutons, crackers, matzo, roti—you get the picture.
Today’s tip includes homemade croutons, which can be made from many types of bread.
We typically use artisan loaves, like sourdough or rustic country bread. But you can use any loaf that can be cubed; French or Italian bread, for example.
Whenever we have too much bread left over from an event, we’ll most certainly make panzanella the next day.
Panzanella (pahn-za-NEL-ah) is a Tuscan-style “bread salad” made with a loaf of day-old (or older*) Italian bread.
It was originally cubed into large croutons that were soaked in vinaigrette to soften them.
It started out as peasant food, when every scrap of food counted, including hardened, leftover bread.
Today, in an era where most of us can toss the stale bread, the process is slightly different: People toast cubes of day-old bread, to make croutons.
Panzanella can be a first course or a main, vegetarian or topped with proteins. There are more recipes below.
California Olive Ranch recommends Arbequina olive oil in the dressing.
They like the Arbequina varietal because of its subtle fruitiness and herbal notes. Those flavors pair nicely with fresh produce.
When you buy a blended olive oil that tastes fruity, that flavor is most likely contributed by Arbequina olives.
Ingredients For 2 Mains or 4 Side
For The Croutons
1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F.
2. PREPARE the bread: Toss the bread, herbs, garlic, salt and pepper in the extra virgin olive oil, adding more as needed. Spread into a single layer on a baking sheet and toast until crisp, 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
3. MAKE the dressing: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together until emulsified. Season to taste and set aside.
4. ASSEMBLE the salad base: Combine the greens, snap peas, sunflower seeds, and parmesan cheese in a large salad bowl. Add the dressing and toss to coat, then top with the croutons.
*When the bread has no preservatives, we’ve found that one day or two days after purchase is fine for croutons. By the third day, the bread tends to be rock-hard and we can’t slice it. When this happens, though, stick it in the food processor and make high-quality breadcrumbs.