Throwing a loaf of stale bread away is a crime when you could make croutons out of it instead. In fact, sometimes I put bread aside to go stale specifically so I can turn it into croutons. This recipe takes crunchy homemade croutons one step further by adding a topping of cheese.
Speaking of which, this recipe is also a great way to use up any little nubs of hard cheese hiding in the back of your refrigerator. You can use practically any type of cheese - some to try are Cheddar, Gruyere, Asiago, Parmigiano-Reggiano or Manchego.
These cheese croutons can be tossed into salad, but are just as good sprinkled over a bowl of soup.
- 1 loaf (8 ounces) of bread (fresh or stale)
- 1/2 cup olive oil, or more if needed
- 1/2 cup finely grated cheese (or more to taste)
- Dash salt (to taste)
1. Preheat oven to 325 F
2. Slice the loaf of bread into 1/2 to 1-inch squares*
3. Put the bread cubes in a large bowl and toss with olive oil, cheese and a few pinches of salt. The easiest way to do this is with your hands, tossing the bread repeatedly so it is evenly covered.
4. Spread the croutons out in one layer on a rimmed baking sheet.
5. The baking time will vary, but usually takes about 30 minutes.
The croutons should be nicely browned and crispy. Shake the pan several times while the croutons bake to make sure they cook evenly.
6. Let cool.
*A baguette can also be thinly sliced, instead of cut into cubes. Brush each slice with olive oil, sprinkle with cheese and bake.
Croutons are the perfect topping for salad, but chunks of bread as a main part of a salad can be even better. Panzanella (Italian bread salad) is made from chunks of stale bread, fresh tomatoes, onion and vinaigrette. Sometimes cucumber and basil are also added. This recipe, adding mozzarella to bread salad, is an untraditional twist.
Fattoush is another bread salad, this time made from pita bread. Typical additions include tomato, cucumber, herbs, romaine lettuce and then a lemon vinaigrette. In this fattoush recipe, feta cheese is sprinkled on top.
In both recipes, the bread and pita are typically stale, as the salads came into being as a delicious way to use bread that wasn't completely fresh. Another really delicious way to use stale bread? In a roasted chicken and bread salad. In some recipes the bread is tossed with the chicken after it cooks, in other recipes the bread is baked with the chicken, soaking up it's fat and juices.