I've never been a fan of croutons. Especially popular when I was a kid at places like Beefsteak Charlie's salad bar (anyone else remember the chopped chicken liver and all you can eat shrimp?) they have become a seemingly automatic topping on salads everywhere. I never understood the allure. Commercially produced croutons are especially daunting with their stale flavor and dredging of dried herbs. To be fair I have tasted a few delicious, freshly made croutons but their large size always seemed to pull focus from the main event, the vegetables.
Last night we had dinner at Pastaria in St. Louis. I have a thing for kale salads right now so ordering the shaved kale with anchovy dressing was automatic. It was a riff of the classic Caesar with extra anchovy in the dressing. The salad was gorgeous, topped with a generous scattering of crispy bread crumbs. Their added texture and flavor made the salad. They slipped through the crevices and adhered to the resilient green leaves, interspersed with creamy shreds of parmesan cheese and the slightly salty, pungent dressing. So good I know we'll be playing with this one at home, perhaps with Caesar-flavored crumbs to top a bright fish salad or crispy cornbread crumbs for green tomato salad. It was one dish in a truly great meal. Now we just have to get Gerard and Adam to open one in PA.