Not a Crumb Wasted

By Mary Reilly, Photo by Dominic Perri

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Rustic, lovely loaves of bread rise up across our Valley. The use of local flour and sourdoughs only adds to the sense of place found in each slice. It seems like a crime to waste even a bite. Instead, try one of these no-brainer bread-savers:

Make croutons. Toss cubes of stale bread with oil and a pinch of salt. If storing the croutons for later, they should be dried out completely, so put ½- to ¾-inch-thick cubes or slices into a low oven (275°) until completely dry and crisp. Use a high oven (375°) and larger cubes if using your croutons right away—in panzanella, for instance.

Breadcrumbs. Cut thin slices of stale bread. Pulse in food processor until as “crumby” as desired. Toast in low oven until dry, or store “fresh” in the freezer. Toss crunchy crumbs over pasta or bean dishes to add texture.

Panade. French onion soup without the soup: A cheesy rich layering of stale bread, onions, and broth. See EPV issue 18 for a method.

Panzanella (or bread salad, pictured below) does not need a recipe and is one of my favorite year-round go-tos. Toss croutons with chopped fresh vegetables and a citrusy dressing, adding beans or hard-boiled eggs to up the protein. In the summer, it’s all about the tomatoes, but as we enter fall, I’ll use shredded kale, roasted butternut, and pickled onions.

Grilled Rhubarb-Glazed Quail on Candied Radish and Scallions

Grilled Rhubarb-Glazed Quail on Candied Radish and Scallions

Quail isn’t something we cook often, but it’s a great bird to add to your repertoire. It’s quick and easy to cook, and it looks very impressive on the plate. Although there are many components to this dish, much of the prep work can be done ahead of time. For a different springtime presentation, the quail and rhubarb essence would also be fantastic with grilled Hadley grass!

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Shaved Asparagus, Pea, and Pea Shoot Salad

I have served this surprisingly rich salad as a second course after a pasta dish, on top of a piece of broiled fish, and garnished with croutons: they’re all good! When choosing pea shoots, look for small pale leaves with plenty of thin, curling tendrils. Avoid large stemmy pea shoots, which are tougher. But if you do find them in the market with very long stems you can cut the stems off and throw them in the stockpot. Save the asparagus ends or peels for asparagus stock.

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Mushroom and Lentil Salad

This salad is a great way to showcase fresh mushrooms. We used large oyster mushrooms in our version, but you can use shiitake, portobello, or even crimini or button mushrooms in a pinch. There are a few components to this dish, but the lentils and dressing can be made several days ahead.

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