Monday, June 13, 2011

Herb Bread

It’s time to make some more herb bread. I make this bread on a regular basis because I can do so much with it. I’m using the recipe for Chicken Stuffing Bread from Beth Hensperger’s The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook as a guide. However, I think any basic white bread recipe would work. Dick Logue from Low Sodium Cooking has a Stuffing Bread recipe that would also work well. The point is to make a basic loaf that is full of herb flavor. You can use any herbs you like. Today I’m using some herbs from my garden: chives, thyme, and rosemary. In addition, I’m throwing in some parsley I just bought from the grocery store.
You can adjust the herbs to fit your preferences. Use oregano, basil, and garlic (powder or roasted – do not use fresh) for an Italian flavor. Add sage for a true poultry stuffing flavor. Dill weed and lemon zest would be yummy with fish. Dill, oregano, mint and lemon zest for a Greek twist. You can add seeds and nuts too: sesame seeds, fennel, cumin, poppy, caraway, dill seeds, pine nuts, and chopped walnuts or pecans. Don’t forget coarsely ground black pepper, dried onion flakes, and a bit of dried red pepper flakes. Maybe even a couple of dollops of mustard.
Today I’m making a 2 pound loaf, and I’m going to bake it in my Zojirushi bread machine. I hardly ever bake bread in my machine because I think it comes out better baked in the oven. However, making herb bread is an exception. I really don’t care how it turns out. It can be a bit lopsided, not very brown on top… No problem! It’s all going to get cut up, cubed, crumbled, so having a good looking loaf isn’t important.
The great thing about herb bread (especially if you’re making it low sodium) is that the bread itself is full of flavor. Today I’m going to cut up some larger cubes for croutons. Toss with a bit of olive oil and/or butter, toast in the oven or in a frying pan until dry and crunchy, and into a freezer bag. There’s no easier way to dress up a ho-hum salad than sprinkling on some tasty, crispy croutons. Sometimes I cut up smaller cubes and oven toast them for my own super low sodium homemade stuffing mix. Sauté onion & celery in butter, toss in some of the cubes, add low sodium chicken broth to moisten, and I’ve got stuffing. After making croutons, I’m going to run the rest of the bread through my food processor to make loads of fresh breadcrumbs. I’ll freeze those too.
I use flavored breadcrumbs a lot. I’ve found that adding a bit of crunch helps liven up low sodium dishes. Texture is very important when following a low sodium diet. For example, I routinely combine the flavored breadcrumbs with some olive oil, freshly grated lemon peel, and freshly crushed garlic. Sometimes I’ll add a couple of tablespoons of finely grated Parmesan cheese and a pinch of red pepper flakes. I keep this combo in the fridge until needed. Then I’ll toast it in a small frying pan to sprinkle on top of vegetables of all kinds. If I make pasta with just garlic, oil, and a bit of chicken broth, I’ll use the tasty bread crumb topping rather than straight Parmesan cheese. The crumbs are great for baked fish too. I usually just smear a thin layer of mayonnaise or mustard on top of the fish fillets and then press in the fresh breadcrumb mixture before baking in my toaster oven. I also use the crumbs with the ubiquitous boneless, skinless chicken breasts, either baked or pan-fried. Of course, the crumbs make a wonderful casserole topping and breading. And they’re great as filler for tuna patties, squash patties, meatballs, and meatloaf.
Finally, I try to set aside at least four decent slices of the herb bread for grilled cheese sandwiches. A special treat. I use a combination of cheddar and naturally low sodium Swiss.
I encourage you to give herb bread a try. You don’t have to worry about a perfect loaf, but you’ll find several good uses for the crumbs and cubes you get from it.

1 comment:

Christy said...

Shambo, this sounds amazing, as always. I will have to try this, and soon - that low-so caesar salad I recently posted is delish but will be even better with some of this bread made into croutons. THANKS!!