|"French Bread" by David Monniaux. |
License: CCA-SA 3.0 Unported.
It's really a crying shame when bread gets thrown away. Not so terrible if it's moldy, of course, but if it's just dried out? C'mon, we can all do better than that. Here are three things you can do with your dried up leftover bread hunks that would make your gran from the Old Country very proud.
Cut (in some cases, saw!) your dried up bread into bite-sized pieces. Put in a large bowl. In a separate small bowl, mix together olive oil, minced garlic, any dried herbs you might like (just a little bit, they're strong in flavor), salt and pepper, maybe some grated parmesan cheese if you like. Pour this mixture over your bread cubes and toss. Arrange seasoned cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet; broil on LOW, watching carefully, until nicely golden. Turn and broil again to make sure they are completely browned and dried out. Set out on the counter to cool completely; store in a large well-sealed container on your counter and use in soups and salads at will. If you're lazy like me, you can just skip the part about pre-seasoning the bread cubes and do it all right on the sheet pan and toss well before broiling.
2. BREAD CRUMBS.
Tear your leftover bread into chunks and fit it into the bowl of your food processor. Three cups of loosely packed bread hunks will turn into about 2 cups of crumbs. Pulse a few times, then let the food pro go crazy for about 10 seconds, et voila!, instant bread crumbs to use for breading, binding, etc. Really, you don't need to buy these. Ever. Store in a well-sealed container. If your crumbs are still a tad soft, you can freeze them or just leave them out on the counter overnight to get even more dried out before storing away in your pantry.
3. THICKEN SAUCES AND SOUPS.
Any brothy soup or thin sauce can be instantly thickened by tearing up pieces of stale bread and stirring them in. They'll fall apart in no time, sopping up the liquids, giving you a thicker soup or sauce for dinner, which sounds especially good at this time of year.
I had a whole loaf of really great artisan bread available last week that had completely hardened before we'd had a chance to tear into it. I used a sharp serrated bread knife to slice it into thick slabs. Then I toasted it under a LOW broiler after drizzling it with olive oil and a little salt and pepper. Instant bruschetta! We dunked it in a soup made from pot roast leftovers with rice, topping it with goat cheese. De-lish! The dried bread softens up wonderfully in the soup. You could even just place an entire slab in the bottom of your soup bowl before pouring the soup in...