We go out on a lot of dates, actually. With my dad living here too, we are pretty much free to go once the kids are all in bed, which is usually between 8:00-8:30 for the older ones, earlier for the littles. Usually we end up having half price Happy Hour appetizers somewhere. Dinner dates, though, are rare.
With five little kids, we don't often go out to eat as a family, at least not for full meals. Don't get me wrong, the kids are actually pretty well behaved at restaurants, but it's not cheap to feed the hordes when we dine out. Consequently, I find myself often thinking, "I'd like to try that place. Maybe the next time we get a dinner date." Then, when that magic day comes, I get in a panic and my mind draws a complete blank. Luckily, this time, Zach remembered that I had wanted to try a cafe that a Facebook friend had recently opened, Betty's Cafe and Pies in Eagan.
I am a big, fat wimp about trying new things in restaurants. I'm cheap and like to know what I'm getting for my money, so although there is a part of me that is always vowing to try something different next time, I usually end up with my standards. French Silk is my default pie. I loved their French Silk. It actually tasted like chocolate instead of chocolate-flavoured sugar, a sin many french silks fall victim to.
Anyway, with a partial loaf of Rosemary Olive Oil Bread and a partial loaf of Rosemary Foccacia leftover the following day, I decided to make a batch of croutons.
Usually, I can take or leave croutons. The one exception was the croutons at a restaurant I volunteered at in my youth, St Martin's Table in Minneapolis. I believe the restaurant is now closed, but I still have fond memories of it. After my final layoff from my brief career in IT, I had hit a crisis period in my life. I knew I didn't want to go back to another software job, but I had no idea what I did want to do. It was a cold, harsh winter, both literally and spiritually. Rather than sitting around in my pajamas feeling sorry for myself, I decided to fill the void with acts of service.
St Martin's was a non-profit restaurant staffed mostly by volunteers, with a small core staff of some of the kindest, most gentle people I knew. They served fresh baked bread, homemade soups, salads and sandwiches, hot tea, coffee and some lovely desserts. It reminded me of a hobbit-hole, with its simple, natural decor and hearty portions of simple, wholesome food. I worked several times a week as a volunteer waitress, with tips going to a different hunger related charity every month. It was the bright spot in my otherwise bleak winter. Consequently, salad has become something of a comfort food to me. This time of year, that is a very good thing.
I didn't add any herbs to this batch because the bread itself was herbed, but I did add garlic. I don't know what I like more about this recipe, the croutons themselves or the little, buttery crumbs on the bottom of the pan. Both are delicious. Only half of them made it into the salad. The kids (with, maybe, a little help from their mother) ate the rest as a snack.