Lemons Lemons are one of my favorite flavor enhancers but you need to be careful of the white pith. If you cook the pith, it turns very bitter. Cooking the rind or pulp is fine but never use the pith or seeds. I remember discovering this disturbing fact cooking chicken piccata for the first time. I thought I could enhance the flavor by cooking lemon slices in the sauce but instead I got a bitter taste I couldn't correct with sugar.
My Favorite Pan My favorite pan is a twenty dollar cast iron pan. I remember vividly how my step-father coveted his iron pan and warned us about not using soap to clean it. Seasoned and maintained properly, an iron pan can last forever. It is better than any non stick pan and far more durable. It's thick base holds heat better than any pan in my arsenal and prevents food from burning by dispersing the heat.
I make croutons all the time now. I love to eat crusty La Brea brand bread but those tapered ends don't work well for sandwiches or even a piece of toast. So, I freeze the bread ends till I have enough to make crunchy, garlicky, herby, oily croutons. Stale or even fresh bread is fine too! I usually make too much and end up snacking on them cause they're so good!
Slice your bread into the size crouton you want. About an inch is the largest you want to go or they take too long to cook and are cumbersome to chew. Don't worry too much about the shape or size consistency. While evenly sized croutons cook more uniformly, I find the variance in size and crunch a welcomed inconsistency. Yeah, I know the top chefs preach consistency but sometimes you need to break the rules! Think rustic cooking.
Heat a large pan on medium heat. Add half the olive oil, wait a minute and add the bread. Immediately start mixing the bread so the oil is distributed as much as possible. Drizzle the remaining oil over the top and stir again. Add the rest of the ingredients including garlic powder, herbs, salt and pepper and continue to stir till every piece is visibly covered in herbs and pepper.
Let the croutons sit in the pan so they start to brown and then stir again. Repeat this process till you have a nice color on the croutons. Be careful not to leave them for too long or they could burn! Once they look good to the eye, transfer them to a preheated oven at 300 degrees and cook for twenty minutes. I just leave them in the same pan but if it's not oven safe then transfer them to a cookie sheet.
No need to wait till your significant other is home for dinner, just start popping them in your mouth. I eat them right out of the oven to test the crunchiness but honestly that's just an excuse to snack. Once they've cooled down I start dipping them in Caeser Dressing. Good thing my wife doesn't like croutons. More for me!