I know, I know. Week-old bagels don’t sound like anything you’d want to go near unless you’re looking for a paperweight or a christmas ornament. (?!) But hear me out, and consider how much store-bought croutons cost, and more importantly, how much they suck, before you dismiss this idea out of hand.
When fresh, bagels typically cost at least 50 cents each, but my local grocer sells day-old bagels by the bag-ful at the end of the day for just 99 cents. As it turns out, you can still get a few more days out of these rejects if you keep them bagged, refrigerate them, and don’t mind toasting them when you’re ready to eat. But I almost always end up with 6 or 8 bagels that are too stale even for my accommodating standards. These I convert to croutons.
Cut it as you would if you were going to eat in the usual manner.
Cut in half vertically, and then cut in a radius to create small wedge-shaped pieces. Note that I am carving up a cinnamon raisin bagel here. I find that the sweet bagels add a nice variety to the croutons. To some, of course, the non-savory bagel is best left to a temporary flirtation, and I’m not about to get all partisan about it.
Once you’ve reduced the bagel to wedges, douse them with pretty much whatever you’ve got for herbs and spices. Salt and pepper are key, but garlic powder, terragon, and rosemary usually make an appearance. And if it’s good for nothing else, powdered parmesan cheese–the cheaper the better I’d say–goes very nicely on these croutons.
Next, oil them up with anything edible. Olive oil is nicest if you can afford it, but I’ve made them with canola, vegetable, even peanut oil, to delicious effect. Make sure you toss them thoroughly in a large bowl so each wedge gets a taste of the oil and spices. Spread them out on a tray or cookie sheet and toast the hell out of them. No precise numbers here. I usually drop them for 30 minutes in the middle of a 375 degree oven and if needed finish them for a couple of minutes under a high broil, as I did here:
Once they’ve cooled, you can seal them in plastic bags or tupperware and they’ll pretty much keep for ever. I eat them on salads, for late night snacks, and, on very special occasions treat my dog to one or two. They’re also a great addition to a hasty panzanella salad should you happen to stumble across a little fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil.
So there: Week-old Bagel Croutons.