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Let's Dish With Linda Lou

Sharing My Recipes, My Life, And The Food Tale Of Two Cities

Homemade Ciabatta Croutons

Tuscan Sausage, Kale And Potato Soup

Sweet Italian Sausage, Mushroom, And Asparagus Strata

There is nothing better than Homemade Ciabatta Croutons. Whenever I make croutons, they’re usually made from cutting up a special Artisan bread I bought from my local bakery. Ciabatta bread is my favorite. Specifically the Tuscan garlic loaf. Whole roasted garlic cloves are baked right into the bread.

Let me say this if you love good bread, and you’ve made your own croutons, you’ll never buy the store-bought brand again.

Above are a few of my recipes where I’ve added Homemade Ciabatta Croutons.

There are my Tuscan, Chicken, and French onion soups, my Stuffed Acorn Squash, a delicious Panzanella Salad, and finally, my Sweet Italian Sausage, Mushroom, And Asparagus Strata.

I think in the future I’ll be making a sweet bread pudding using another variety of  Ciabatta bread. They are just so many recipes that start out with great Homemade Ciabatta Croutons.

Let me show you my basic crouton recipe using the Tuscan Garlic Ciabatta.

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So, there are two methods for making great homemade croutons.

The first one is, baking them off on a sheet pan with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, Kosher salt, and black pepper. You could also get crazy and add some, garlic powder, and maybe even dried herbs. I’d first toss them with the olive oil, Kosher salt, and freshly cracked black pepper to make sure they’re all coasted nicely. Spread them out evenly in a single layer, on a sheet pan. Bake them off at 350 degrees F., Toss the bread cubes once, until they’re are browned on all sides, about 10-15 minutes.

The second, way I love is to use a large sauté pan. Make sure the recipe doesn’t require more than 4-6 cups of bread cubes. Using butter with olive oil just adds extra flavor to those delightful little cubes of bread. On medium heat, season with Kosher salt and black pepper, tossing frequently, until the bread is evenly toasted and browned. To add even more flavor, while the croutons are still hot, transfer them to a large mixing bowl, add freshly chopped herbs and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

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Yields: 4-6 cups (1 loaf of Tuscan garlic Ciabatta)
Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:
4-6 cups of bread cubes, 1 to 1 1/2 inch cubes (1 loaf of Tuscan Ciabatta garlic loaf, or plain Ciabatta)
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Freshly chopped fresh herbs, optional
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Directions:
Melt the butter and olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium heat. Add the bread cubes making sure they’re in on layer in the pan. Season with Kosher salt and black pepper. Toss all the bread cubes around so they absorb the butter and olive oil. Sauté for a couple of minutes without turning. Once a golden brown, on the first side, then toss them again until brown all sides. This takes about 15 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

While the croutons are nice and hot this is the time to add freshly chopped herbs, grated Parmesan cheese, or both. Toss to combine.

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Panzanella Salad With A Twist

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Having my daughter visit recently, I needed to make a “meat free” meal for her. Now, in our house, Steve loves “meat free” meals once and a while however; for a main coarse he prefers to have some type of protein. I’m thinking what better way to do this than with a Panzanella salad and make everyone happy. This traditional Italian salad is basically a tomato and bread salad with a few other ingredients. Here though, I’m going to put a spin on tradition.
Directions:
In a large bowl,  take one English, seedless cucumber, seeded with a spoon, and cut into half moons. Take the half moons and cut them in half. Slice 1/2 a red onion into thinly sliced half moons. Next, dice up 1 yellow bell pepper into a large dice. A pint each of the yellow and red grape tomatoes halved, and toss them into the bowl as well. Add all these ingredients to the bowl. Take a quarter cup of pitted Kalamata olives and chop them up and add them in with the other ingredients.

In a separate bowl I diced up 3/4 of a pound of Genoa salami that I bought from the deli. I had them slice it in one large piece, making it easier to dice.  Steve has the option then to add this right to his salad and not interfering with the integrity of the traditional Panzanella salad.

Next, is the dressing, and the bread that makes this salad so wonderful. I cubed up a loaf of Ciabatta bread crusts and all, and spread the cubes over two baking sheets. Drizzled them with olive oil, and a light sprinkling of Kosher salt and pepper. In a preheated 400 degree oven bake for 15 minutes, or until they are golden brown. I like to shake the pans half way through the baking process, so that the bread gets tossed around a bit, and I can get a better feel for when the bread’s texture is just right.

Note: This recipe works even better if you have a loaf of day old bread. This will allow the bread to absorb the dressing much better.

Once the croutons are done, immediately place them into the bowl with the rest of the ingredients. The hot croutons will absorb the dressing much better.

This vinaigrette can be made while the croutons are in the oven.  In another bowl add 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, 1 clove of grated garlic, 2 tablespoons of dried oregano, 1 tablespoon of Agave nectar, 1 tablespoon of Kosher salt, 1 teaspoon of black pepper.  Slowly drizzle in 1/2 a cup of E.V.O.O. Whisk this all together and just pour the dressing over the salad.

Toss all the ingredients together so the bread cubes gets coated in that delicious dressing. Finally, dice up 6 ounces of good Feta cheese. The reason I add this in last is so the cheese will keep its integrity.  Finish by adding in 3 tablespoons of fresh chopped basil leaves. You can toss in some of that delicious Genoa salami to your salad for that little something extra.

 

2014-10-26 17.58.40Prep Time:: 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Equipment: 2 baking sheets

Ingredients:
1 English cucumber, cut into half moons then cut half moon in half
1/2 red onion sliced into thinly sliced half moons
1 large diced yellow bell pepper
1 pint each of red and yellow grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup of pitted and chopped Kalamata olives
1/4 pound of diced Genoa salami (optional)
6 ounces of diced Feta cheese
1 loaf of cubed Ciabatta bread baked off into croutons
1/4 cup of olive oil (for croutons)
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt (for croutons)
1 teaspoon of fresh cracked black pepper ( for croutons)
3 tablespoons of freshly chopped basil leaves

Dressing:
1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
1 clove of freshly grated garlic
2 tablespoons of dried oregano
1 tablespoon Agave nectar
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of fresh cracked black pepper
1/2 cup of E.V.O.O

 

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