How to Use Stale Bread

Matthew Card is a Portland-based food writer, recipe developer, and consultant. He has served as a Test Cook and Contributing Editor for Cook’s Illustrated magazine for more than a dozen years.
He is also a self-proclaimed cheapskate who hates to waste food.  Matthew stopped by to help us save our stale bread.

You'll find Matthew's recipe for All-Season Bread Salad on our recipes page.

How to Use Stale Bread
I am a real cheapskate at heart and relish using everything I can when cooking. Case in point: bread. We’re blessed in Portland with a number of world-class bakeries producing some of the best breads in the country. And, if you’re like me, you end up with lots of stale bread. Don’t throw it out: Turn it into croutons and use it to anchor meals like bread salad (panzanella) or Spanish-style scrambled eggs called migas.

Soak it: Soak the bread in warm water until soft enough to break into pieces, squeeze out as much moisture as possible.

Fry it: Frying the bread in extra-virgin olive oil with a little salt and pepper will turn the soggy bread crisp and crunchy on the outside, but the interior will remain soft and custardy—pretty addictive really.

Using the croutons: These croutons are perfect for making a main-course bread salad—what the Italians call panzanella. Think of it as a deconstructed sandwich—that couldn’t be faster or easier to make. You can prep most of the ingredients in the morning before heading to work or in those hectic moments in the evening without much thought.

Ingredients: In addition to stale bread, panzanella is traditionally made with juicy summer tomatoes, however, I make mine during the months without tomatoes with sweet, juicy roasted peppers—either freshly roasted or jarred—and all manner of hearty ingredients.
To make it a complete meal, I add a protein like chickpeas (I cook mine from scratch, though canned beans work well too), though cubes of chicken, slices of grilled steak, sliced salami, or even crumbled smoked fish work well.
Crunchy vegetables, like thin-sliced fennel, radish, sugar snap peas, or cucumber add a lot of flavor and welcome texture.
    A tangy cheese, like feta, adds accent and richness.
    Pickled peppers, like Peppadew peppers or Mama Lils peppers, are a terrific accent note (and a secret of mine—I mince them up and add them to everything). They add a little heat and a lot of piquancy that can cut through richness.   
As for greens, choose hearty greens, like romaine, escarole, radicchio, or arugula, which stand up well to the croutons.
    I finish the flavorful salad with a simple vinaigrette: sweet-tart white balsamic vinegar, minced garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, and extra-virgin olive oil.

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