Earlier this year, my husband and I celebrated our one-year anniversary with a long weekend trip to Pittsburgh. While there, we had a celebratory dinner at Eleven. I ordered lamb chops, which were plated along with assorted vegetables and something the menu listed as “parsnip croutons.” I expected this to be something like deep-fried parsnip chips, but when the dish arrived the croutons turned out to be toasted pieces of a sort of parsnip bread. They were lightly spiced, a little sweet, crisp on the outside, and dense and still soft on the inside. Delicious!
I’ve never tried to recreate that particular dish at home, but I am copying those croutons here using my beer bread. This bread is dense and fairly sweet, and just the right texture to crisp up on the outside while staying soft and moist on the inside. It also keeps well in the freezer, so it’s easy to whip up a batch of croutons whenever the mood strikes!
In this sauté, the croutons add crunch and a bit of sweetness to balance out the acidic lemon and tomatoes. Use plenty of salt and pepper in making the croutons and be sure to let them get nice and browned, but be careful that they don’t burn.
I happen to have a stockpile of lemon thyme after growing it in my herb garden this year, but you can certainly use regular thyme or try a different herb like oregano or basil. Or, try red wine or another vinegar in place of the lemon juice. This dish also benefits from the addition of crumbled feta or goat cheese, or–you guessed it–a runny egg.
- 2 slices beer bread, cut into cubes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
- 1-2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1/4 tsp dried lemon thyme, or regular thyme
- 4 cups baby spinach
- 1 large tomato or two smaller ones, diced
- 1 can great northern or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- Lemon juice, as needed
- salt and pepper
- Heat a skillet (I use a carbon steel pan) over medium to medium-high heat until hot. Add the bread cubes and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to toast, adjusting the heat as needed. Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil, a tiny pinch of thyme, and salt and pepper, and cook until golden brown. Remove from the pan.
- Return the pan to the burner. Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil over medium until it shimmers. Add the garlic and remaining thyme, and cook until the garlic is fragrant and just beginning to turn golden, no more than 1-2 minutes.
- Add the spinach and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook and stir until wilted.
- Add the tomato and beans and cook, stirring, until heated through.
- Taste and season with lemon juice and salt and pepper as needed.
- Divide the vegetables between two bowls or plates and top with the croutons. Serve.