In Good Taste: Meal ideas for that leftover artisan bread

Published 10:00 pm Monday, May 15, 2017

Artisan bread loaves tempt us to buy — and to buy now — as they are freshly baked and at their prime to enjoy. Whether we really needed a different loaf of bread doesn’t matter; it’s like having to have the gravy when there is mashed potatoes. And then we come to realize that it’s Day 2 past the bread’s prime and there is still 25 percent of it left … do we chuck it? Feed it to the birds? Freeze it for another time or can we turn it into a different meal altogether? The answer is, yes! Here are some meal ideas, and there are recipes for them in most any cookbook, and of course, on what I call the interweb.

There are bread salad recipes beyond the homemade croutons (which, by the way, are an easy and tasty way to use up artisan bread chunks). The Fattoush bread salad is the Middle Eastern version of the Italian Panzanella. You cut cubes or longer sticks and polish them with olive oil, salt and pepper, maybe some herbs and definitely some parmesan or romano cheese, and bake low around 250 degrees for a half hour or so, until most all of the moisture is out of the bread. These bread chunks fold into a creamy or oily salad and absorb the liquid somewhat to become a lightly crunchy addition to the dish.

Bread puddings and stratas are another way to use up older artisan bread. In these cases, bread cubes (large or small) absorb an egg and milk based custard, not unlike French toast, while either sweet or savory ingredients are added like chocolates, liquor, or fruit or cheese, meats, and vegetables. Then the pudding (or the strata) is baked and served alongside breakfast meats or eggs, or a fresh soup or salad in the case of the strata.

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Bread can be used to thicken soups either in the form of homemade breadcrumbs or soaked slices added to a soup that is going to be a puree. A cold white garlic soup, of Spanish origin, calls for soaked bread slices to be added once the puree process begins. If you already have a savory artisan bread like garlic, oregano and parmesan that has passed its prime, create a savory soup that requires bread to thicken it during a puree. The bread imparts some extra layers of flavorful ingredients that are built right in.

Artisan breads are not made with preservatives and conditioners. Their ingredients lists are not 28 ingredients long. They are made as a devoted age-old food art and can be enjoyed as a once a week purchase for the family table. Don’t give up on any unused portions! Sometimes just blending them up to keep homemade breadcrumbs in the freezer is the timesaving go-to.