The only thing better than a good recipe? When something’s so easy to make that you don’t even need one. Welcome to It’s That Simple, a column where we talk you through the process of making the dishes and drinks we can make with our eyes closed.
Anytime I go to a restaurant, I order dishes with toasty, itsy-bitsy breadcrumbs. Crisp and seasoned, this topping brings another dimension of texture and flavor to about just anything. Suddenly pasta has more bite, salad goes from okay to decadent, and soup that had zero texture now has extra oomph.
Even when I can’t make it to a restaurant, I still want crunchy breadcrumbs at home. So, if I have a little extra time and want a meal to feel special, I’ll make them myself. Luckily, it couldn’t be easier.
And the best part: You can flavor breadcrumbs however you want, customizing them to whatever is for dinner. Got peak-season tomatoes? Douse them in bacon-y breadcrumbs. Have too much zucchini on hand? Give them a hard sear and shower them with garlicky breadcrumbs. Blending up vegetable soup? Brighten it with lemon-zested breadcrumbs. The possibilities are endless.
Here’s how to make choose-your-own-adventure breadcrumbs:
Pour about 3 Tbsp. of fat in a shallow pan over medium heat. Olive oil is a safe choice. Or if, for example, you just cooked up some bacon, you can use that rendered fat instead for added flavor. Add 1 cup of breadcrumbs (such as panko) to the pan to toast. Be sure to stir frequently and keep an eye on the heat—these can go from pale to burnt pretty quickly. If the pan seems too hot, turn it down to medium-low. The goal is a deep golden brown. From here, customize to your liking: For toasty, nutty options like za’atar and everything bagel seasoning, add 1 Tbsp. of the blend to the breadcrumbs as soon as they’re very lightly toasted, so the spices have a chance to toast too. For grated Parmesan and lemon zest, add after the breadcrumbs have fully toasted and have cooled. Finish with a big pinch of salt, taste and adjust to your liking, and use right away.
Some bright ideas to get started:
Za’atar breadcrumbs are perfect for deeply roasted carrots or squash. Everything bagel seasoning breadcrumbs would work great on a crisp salad with crunchy greens like iceberg or Little Gem. Parmesan breadcrumbs are a wonderful salty-savory addition to a simple pasta. And lemony breadcrumbs are my favorite on soups of any kind.
Breadcrumbs + Bacon = Match Made in Heaven
Call it a BLT salad, call it ranch salad, this combination of bacon-y breadcrumbs, tomatoes, and creamy cool dressing has got just enough going on for us to call it dinner.