Saturday, August 11, 2007


The breadcrumb business fascinates me. People buy these round cartons of plain and seasoned breadcrumbs in supermarkets. You know - not Whole Foods - regular supermarkets. Price points run a couple of dollars or more. Depends on location and brand. At Whole Foods, they buy plastic clamshell containers of bread crumbs - various textures like Panko or plain. Prices here probably vary too, but it's in the $5 ballpark. For a pretty small quantity, mind you - probably one or two uses. Panko aside, I'm tempted to suppose that the breadcrumbs must come from processing leftover breads in the bakery department. I don't know this - but it's tempting to think so. Actually let me confess that I haven't even tried the products in question so I can't even offer an educated guess. But, if they were using up their unsold bakery breads, this would be a good thing, not a bad one.

But back to the main point. People pay money for these breadcrumb offerings in supermarkets. This is a powerful demonstration of the state we've come to. Who needs breadcrumbs? People who cook. If you're not cooking - what possible use for breadcrumbs? You must be frying fish or making meatloaf or something. You're cooking. You're in the select minority - people who still cook.

And you're eating food that includes breadcrumbs. You aren't gluten averse. You eat wheat based bread products. So (I've got them on the run here....) AHA! You must buy bread from time to time. Do you always eat it all up before it goes stale? That would be a remarkable feat. In the alternative, are you always throwing out any bread that isn't perfectly fresh any more? Why not make breadcrumbs with these bits of leftover bread?

Fresh breadcrumbs, made at home, as needed. So easy. And the difference in quality is remarkable. You can save money, waste less food, and have a better outcome so easily.

Here's a quick Italian style mix we make up:

Grate leftover bread into crumbs. (I sometimes use a grater disk in my Cuisinart food processor).
Grate Parmesan cheese (or substitute hard cheese of your choice) and mix in with bread crumbs.
Add grated bread and cheese to food processor bowl fitted with regular blade.
Add a clove of garlic, some flat parsley. These fresh items should be used no matter what you do in the optional herb category below. I also regard the addition of some fresh ground pepper as essential here.
Add any other fresh or dried herbs you like. If you want an easy dried mix that works well for Italian, try Penzey's "Pasta Sprinkle".
Pulse in the processor to get the garlic broken down and then process to the not quite the desired consistency. NOW TASTE AND CORRECT SEASONING. BE CAREFUL WITH SALT - THE CHEESE IS ALREADY CONTRIBUTING THERE. Finally, depending upon the use for which the crumbs are intended, you may want to moisten the mixture with a little good EVOO in the last moments of processing.

This whole project takes about 2 minutes and will yield a life altering improvement over anything you can buy at the supermarket. Life Altering.
I don't care if it's fried fish, meatloaf or whatever. You will be amazed at the difference.

2 minutes - using up leftovers. Saving non-trivial money. Profoundly improved results.

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