Croutons are a big part of any good salad, but I tend to shy away from commercial ones for a couple of reasons. First, they are expensive and secondly they can be teeth breaking-ly hard (is that a  real word?).

This is a very simple crouton recipe that has a wonderful flavor and is a good use of that day old French bread in your kitchen. After the cubes are baked, just store them in an airtight container and they will stay crunchy for 2-3 days or you can put them in the freezer for longer storage.

Start off with a half a loaf of day old french bread. The amount of bread isn't really critical...just use what you have.

4 tablespoons olive oil (see note below)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I use the cheap kind w/ green cap)
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt (more if you like a stronger flavor)
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dry parsley flakes (not necessary, but pretty)

Cube the bread (or tear it up) into 3/4" pieces and spread them out on a cookie sheet.

Combine the olive oil, Parmesan, garlic salt and pepper (save parsley flakes for later in the recipe)and mix well. Dot the cheese mixture all over the bread cubes and toss very gently to distribute.

Spread seasoned bread cubes out on a cookie sheet so they aren't touching each other and bake in pre-heated 400° oven for 5 minutes. Depending on how small you make the bread cubes...5 minutes MAY be long enough to get a toasted crouton. If they aren't toasted enough, toss again and bake for another 5 minutes. Depending on how crunchy you like your croutons. Keep an eye on them, so they don't get too dark.

When they are done, sprinkle with the dried parsley flakes and toss.
Cool completely, then store in airtight container.

NOTE: Recipe calls for olive oil, but if I am going to eat them right away, I like to use melted butter (excellent flavor).

NOTE: Depending on what I intend to serve these croutons with, I sometimes add a pinch of cayenne to the cheese mixture.



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