Ron Rottinghaus, of Uprise Bakery, shared a recipe for croutons from “Cooks Illustrated” magazine, noting that “Caesar salad is all about the crispy, garlicky croutons. Ciabatta is ideal for a crouton that is crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle—the perfect compliment to crisp-tender romaine leaves.” Ciabatta bread is available at the Columbia Farmers Market.
In a small bowl combine 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil and garlic, minced to a paste; set aside. (A rasp-style grater works well to turn garlic into paste.) Place bread cubes in a large bowl and lightly moisten by sprinkling with ¼ cup water and table salt. Toss, squeezing gently so bread absorbs water. Place 4 tablespoons olive oil in a 12-inch cast iron or non-stick skillet and cook bread cubes over medium-high heat, stirring frequently until browned and crisp, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove skillet from heat, push croutons to sides of skillet to clear center, add garlic/oil paste mixture to clearing, and cook with residual heat from pan, 10 seconds. Sprinkle with finely grated Parmesan; toss until garlic and Parmesan are evenly distributed. Transfer croutons to bowl until salad is dressed. Then add to salad and mix gently until evenly distributed.
Makes: enough for 4-6 servings of salad.