Try either (or both) of these two simple garnishes with our Parsnip and Apple Soup, or any other soup you love. Try them on salads, too. Both recipes are from our new book, The Lazy Gourmet: Magnificent Meals Made Easy.
Making your own croutons from scratch could not be easier, and they are so much more impressive and better tasting than the store-bought variety. Use any crusty bread you have lying around—it can even be stale. Try a specialty bread made with herbs, nuts, or dried fruits, to add even more personality to your soups and salads.
4 cups cubed bread
¼ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½–1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 300°F.
Place bread cubes in a single layer in a baking dish. Drizzle olive oil over cubes in a slow, steady stream, tossing vigorously to coat all pieces equally. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, turning once, until croutons are crisp and golden brown. Let cool a little before tossing into salads, but go ahead and toss into soups while they’re still nice and hot.
Make it ahead
Croutons will keep in an airtight container on the countertop for a few days. If you make a cheesy version (see below), store them in the fridge and bring them to room temperature before serving. For long-term preservation, store them in the freezer. Just leave them out on the countertop to thaw and return to room temperature, and they’ll be as good as new.
Change it up
• Mix 2 cloves minced garlic into olive oil mixture.
• Mix herbs and spices in with the olive oil: ground coriander, rosemary, basil, oregano, fennel, thyme, marjoram—or just about anything you find in your spice rack.
• Sprinkle croutons with ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese 5 minutes before the end of baking.
• For a blue cheese variation, leave out the salt and pepper. After baking about 25 minutes, remove baking dish from oven and sprinkle cheese over the bread cubes. Return dish to oven and bake 5 minutes, until cheese is melted. Toss bread cubes to coat with the cheese, spread out again in a single layer, and bake another 10 to 15 minutes, until croutons are crisp and golden brown.
This crispy, cheesy garnish is great on salads and in soups. In fact it’s so good you might want to make extra and have it as a snack with sliced apples—or even just by itself.
4 ounces (about 1⅓ cups) grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a baking sheet.
Scatter the grated cheese on the baking sheet in a loose layer about 1/8 to ¼ inch thick. (You don’t want the layer to be too thin, or the cheese won’t hold together.) Alternatively, you can drop the cheese into small, separate circles instead of one big sheet. Bake the cheese in the preheated oven 3 to 6 minutes, until cheese is lightly browned and bubbly; check it every couple of minutes to make sure it doesn’t burn. Remove the cheese from the oven and allow to cool for a couple of minutes. Scrape the crispy baked cheese off the baking sheet with a metal spatula. If it’s in one big sheet, break it up into a few smaller pieces.
Make it ahead
The Parmesan lace can be stored, covered, in the fridge for a couple of days. Bring to room temperature before serving.