Croutons add crunch and some heartiness to a salad, but the purchased variety that come in a box are a sad substitute for freshly homemade croutons. They are simple to make, and a great way to use up leftover bread, making them economical, as well. My personal opinion is that croutons should be plain, with just a little olive oil and salt, allowing the flavors of the salad ingredients and dressing to shine!
3-4 cups of 1/2-3/4-inch diced stale bread, crusts removed (a sturdy bread works best)
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Place the diced bread in a bowl and drizzle with 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle with the salt. Toss with a spoon, spatula or your fingers until the oil and salt are well distributed throughout all of the bread.
Heat a 10-inch skillet (I prefer cast iron) over medium heat. Add the remaining olive oil and heat until it shimmers. Add the bread cubes. Cook, stirring occasionally, toasting the bread until it is golden brown all over, 10 minutes or more. (Decrease the heat if the bread darkens too quickly). Once the bread is browned, remove the skillet from the heat and allow the croutons to cool in the pan, stirring from time to time, which allows the croutons to dry out.
The croutons can also be baked in a 400-degree oven on a sheet pan. Add all of the oil to the bread in the bowl, then transfer to a sheet pan. Bake, turning the croutons a few times, until they are golden brown all over.
Cool before serving! Store in an airtight container or plastic freezer bag.