I love making my own croutons and use them all the time in soups, salads and dips. And with fresh veggie season almost upon us I love to make them the star of my panzanella salad with fresh, out of the garden vegetables and a light viniagrette.
1To make the croutons: Pre heat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly rub it with olive oil and set aside. In large sauce pan over medium heat melt butter and oil. When butter starts to foam and/or bubble, add the garlic and cook for 10 seconds. Now add the bread cubes. With tongs or a large spoon, coat the cubes with the butter-oil-garlic mixture. Turn off the heat and add salt and pepper. Place seasoned cubes in a medium size brown paper bag and add the Parmesan cheese. Shake the bag until cheese coats the cubes. Place cheese-coated bread cubes on prepared baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes, turning halfway through the baking process. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
2To make the salad: Pre heat oven to 400 degrees. Line another baking sheet with aluminum foil and give the grape tomatoes a quick bath in olive oil. Place tomatoes on baking sheet, and liberally sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake 15 minutes until tomatoes begin to split. Let cool. In large bowl combine cooled tomatoes, croutons, cucumber, onion, olives and cheese.
3To make the dressing: Combine all dressing ingredients in a small jar and shake to combine. Toss salad with dressing and let flavors meld before serving. Serve in sturdy lettuce cups.