Stale bread rescue

Cynthia Stone
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How many bags with a slice or two of bread have you poked in your freezer? "To dress the chicken on Sunday," you rationalize. Then, when you are digging around in there for a tub of pea soup that you were sure you didn't eat, out comes enough stale bread to stuff a pterodactyl.
Or maybe you're the realistic type who just throws it in the garbage, suppressing the guilt instilled by our parents, whose generation would no more throw away bread than they'd worry about greenhouse gases.
I admit I've lost the will and ability to use up every scrap of leftover food in my house, and, although I often get them really cold and hard in the freezer before discarding them, the garbage is where they as often as not end up. Don't tell my mother.
But there are lots of rescue recipes for bread that can save it from the dump, and you from your conscience.
First, we'll get the obvious out of the way.
Update this recipe with any ingredients you enjoy - a handful of pine nuts or raisins, some hot Italian sausage, a variety of fresh herbs or fried mushrooms - but this is straight up from my mom's kitchen with one addition: fresh parsley.
If you prefer breadcrumbs, then by all means, but this is about using what's languishing in your breadbox. This recipe makes enough for 4 to 6, but the proportions are scalable.
The truth is, I use whatever bread I have. One last thing: you can cut back on the butter to save fat and calories, but if you do, add a little chicken broth to bump up the flavour.

Traditional Chicken Dressing

1 large onion, minced
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 tbsp. savoury (or to taste)
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper
pinch ground ginger
4 cups stale bread - preferably mostly white - cut into small cubes
2 tbsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley (optional)
Fry onion in butter until soft, but not brown. Add savoury and poultry seasoning to pan and cook another minute or two. Stir in salt, pepper and ginger. Cool. Pour onion mixture over bread in a large mixing bowl. Add parsley and stir to coat each bread cube. You absolutely must taste it now; it should be flavourful and exactly as salty as you want it on your plate - dressing is much better if fully seasoned at the start. Put about 1/2 cup of the mixture in the chicken, rubbing it around the cavity thoroughly. Place the remainder in a flat baking dish, cover and bake with the chicken the last 30 minutes. Remove the foil halfway through if you like your dressing to have crispy bits. Stir in the dressing that was cooking inside the chicken and serve.

Homemade Croutons
You can take everything out of a bottle or bag to make a Caesar salad, but add homemade croutons and it's ready for company. This makes enough for a big salad, but leftovers keep for several days and nicely dress up a can of soup for a weekday lunch.
8 thick slices stale bread, broken or cut roughly into cubes
2 tbsp. each melted butter and olive oil
1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper
pinch each dried oregano and thyme
Toss everything together and spread on a baking sheet. Toast at 375 F until toasty and golden - I don't like them too crunchy, but it's up to you.

Panzanella (Italian Bread Salad with Tuna and Eggs)

One of my favourite things to do with old bread is drizzle it with seasoned olive oil and toss it with the best tomatoes I can find - a tomato sandwich dressed up for company.
Add tuna and hard-boiled eggs and it's a royal meal. Rustic bread is best for this recipe, but any will work and, of course, you can make as much or as little as you like.
However, this much dressing easily serves 6. By the way, leave out the tuna and eggs, use stale pita bread, green onion, lemon juice instead of vinegar, and mint instead of basil and you have a Lebanese bread salad.
4 medium tomatoes
8 thick slices stale Italian style bread, cubed
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 English cucumber, sliced
1/4 cup each chopped fresh Italian parsley and fresh basil leaves
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch each salt and pepper
1 can chunk light tuna packed in water
3 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
Halve tomatoes crosswise and squeeze out the liquid and seeds through a sieve into a bowl; reserve juice.
Coarsely chop tomatoes and toss with bread, onion, cucumber, parsley and basil. Whisk together reserved tomato juice and vinegar and whisk in olive oil until well blended. Add garlic, salt and pepper and toss with tomato-bread mixture; allow to sit for a few minutes. Pour mixture on a serving platter or in a big bowl and crumble tuna coarsely over all. Lay egg wedges on top and serve immediately.

Bread and Cheese 'Souffle'
Here's an easy breakfast or lunch side that looks and tastes so good, and uses up the sandwich bread that no one wants to make sandwiches with anymore. This serves 6 to 8.
8 slices stale sandwich bread, crusts removed and torn into pieces
3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese or any grated cheese you like
5 eggs, lightly beaten
2-1/2 cups milk
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper
1/4 tsp. each dry mustard, garlic powder, and onion powder
few drops hot pepper sauce
2 tbsp. soft butter or margarine
Put bread in a greased 9 by 11-inch baking dish. Cover with cheese. Whisk together eggs, milk, Worcestershire, salt, pepper, dry mustard, garlic powder, onion powder and hot sauce and pour over top.
Dot with butter and place in a large roaster. Pour boiling water about halfway up the pan and bake at 350 F for 45 minutes or until set and golden brown.

Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John's. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John's, NL, A1E 4N1.

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: St. John's

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