Monday, February 15, 2010


Last week I got an email from Lori with a link to a cooking contest she thought I might want to enter. It was sponsored by Whole Foods and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Interesting, I thought. I have lots of parmi recipes that I make. It's a staple in my house. But did I really want to buy more ingredients, record measurements, cook the dish, re-measure and cook the dish again? And did I want to carefully write the whole thing out and submit it along with the thousands of other recipes to be reviewed, all in their time frame, which by the time I found out about the contest, gave me 4 days? Well yeah- of course I did.

You see there was a time when I loved entering contests. It was great for my creative juices, good for the self esteem and actually a lot of fun. Until it got tedious, time consuming and expensive. The interesting (and slightly odd) thing about the Whole Foods contest was that you could view the recipes already submitted. When I first went onto the site there were over 700 recipes listed. I browsed for about 45 minutes, quickly read a few hundred of the recipes entered, and chose to make something so simple, and stress free, that winner or not, people would want to try my recipe.

I decided to enter my Parmigiano croutons. They're crunchy on the outside and melt in your mouth delicious on the inside.

Parmegiano Reggiano Croutons

Cooking spray
4 cups French or Italian baguette (about 1/2 loaf) cut into 1 inch cubes
2 T butter
1 T oil- olive or canola
1 tsp garlic minced or grated (about 2 cloves)
freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmegiano Reggiano

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly spritz with cooking spray. In large saute pan over medium heat melt butter and oil. When butter starts to foam and/or bubble, add the garlic and cook 10 seconds. Now add the bread cubes. With tongs or a large spoon, coat the cubes as best you can with the garlic-oil-butter mixture. Turn off the heat and add salt and pepper. Place cubes in a large bowl or a medium size brown paper bag, and add Parmigiano. If using the bowl, stir until cheese coats the cubes. If using the bag (my method of choice) shake until cheese has done it's job. Place cheese coated bread cubes on prepared baking sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, turning bread cubes halfway through the baking process. Watch them carefully so they don't get too brown. The lighter the better. Cool and enjoy.

I always have to eat a few of these as soon as they come out of the oven. And if they weren't so hot, believe me, I'd grab a handful. They are yummy. There's just enough garlic- it's not overpowering. The bread is toasty but still melts in your mouth. Let them cool. I like these croutons as a garnish for soups and green salads. And I make them the star of the show in a tomato, onion, cucumber and fontina cheese panzanella salad (I'll post that recipe soon). And this week, these croutons added a lot of excitement when they appeared in my breakfast strata. One more use for these little puffs of loveliness- stick them on toothpicks and dip them into your favorite homemade or store bought onion dip. Better than chips. Better than crackers. Hey, these may not win a contest, but they're an easy winner in my book.

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