Return to the 1980s with me as I cook my way through a childhood recipe collection. Do Stuffed Beefaroni Peppers still taste as delicious today as they did 20 years ago? What exactly is Rainbow in a Cloud? And why do all these cake recipes feature mayonnaise? No matter when you came of age, you're bound to find laughs, dining disasters, and hopefully, a few new -- and timeless -- additions to your table.
When my brother and I were young our idea of a sophisticated
night on the town began and ended with the South Everett Sizzler. Mom usually
opted for a steak entrée, but Todd and I went with the all-you-can-eat salad
I don’t know when the salad bar concept really gained
traction, but in the mid-80s we had never seen its like. Bins of chilled
greens, peas, beets, hard-boiled eggs, Krab salad (a family favorite; Todd and
I could and did regularly clean that sucker out), bacon bits and an endless
assortment of gloppy dressings whose ladles identified their type (and all,
inevitably, sticky with the dressing that had run down the handle). And then at
the end of the row, beckoning you and your piled-high plate across the finish
line, the croutons.
Like any child of the ‘80s, I realized only in adulthood that
croutons could be made – I thought they arrived fully formed, and I only ate
them at restaurants or on sad airplane salads. Yet here is a recipe urging me
to slice up some bread, coat it in margarine and toast it for five minutes. Really? That’s all that stood between a
crunchy, delicious crouton and me? Well, not anymore.
Delish like this ...
This recipe is simple, sure, but it’s also a great use for
that half loaf of “artisan” bread I regularly find myself staring down in the
pantry. There are few things that gall me more than paying $5.99 for a loaf of
bread that my family only eats a portion of, unless it’s an ingredient list
that’s longer than my arm – like, say, the ingredients used to make some boxed
croutons. So this DIY version will bring peace of mind to your pocketbook and
These croutons take minutes to prepare and are divine on top
of salad or soup, as the recipe suggests, but also by the handful right after
they come out of the oven. In fact, make a double batch.
I’m sorry to report the South Everett Sizzler is long gone,
though other branches do exist around the country. A few years ago, while on
vacation in California, we stopped in for lunch. Naturally, I ordered the salad
... or like this!
8 slices day-old white bread or French bread
1/3 cup melted margarine
½ tsp. garlic salt
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Makes about 2 cups croutons
Slice bread and cut into ½-inch cubes. Lay cubes flat on a
Melt margarine over low heat; add garlic salt. Drizzle
melted margarine over bread cubes. Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese on top.
Bake in a 400-degree F oven for about 5 minutes, turning
cubes over halfway through cooking time. Croutons should be golden brown.
Store croutons in an airtight container and sue when desired
on salads and soups.
·Frequent readers know I have nothing against
margarine, per se, but I’m going to insist on real butter here. For a recipe
with so few ingredients, the flavor of butter will really be noticed.
·Sub ½ tsp. each garlic powder and salt for the
·As evidenced in the pictures, my croutons were
not brown or, more to the point, crispy, until almost 10 minutes had passed.
Check yours often.
·“Store in an airtight container?” Please. These
will be lucky to last ‘til dinnertime.
Why Don’t You …
·Stop making fun of Krab salad? It’s still a
favorite, although sadly lacking from many salad bars these days.