Don't waste your breadcrumbs. Here are some of the many ways to use them.
• Place slices of day-old bread on a baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees. When nearly crispy, about 10 minutes, drizzle with olive oil, then bake another 5 minutes, until golden. Rub slices with the cut side of half a garlic clove. Let cool, then store in plastic bags or containers in the freezer for up to 6 weeks or in a paper bag in a dry environment for up to 5 days.
• Tear or grate crustless slices or chunks of medium-stale bread. These crumbs are larger than dried and still have a little moisture. For finer crumbs, use a blender or food processor; the slices or chunks may periodically get stuck on the blades, so you'll have to keep resetting. Store in plastic bags or containers in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, in a freezer for up to 6 weeks or in a paper bag, in a dry environment, for up to a week.
To make buttered breadcrumbs, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a frying pan and add 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, stirring until golden, about 2 minutes.
• When the leftover bread is really hard and really dry, put the slices or chunks in a blender or food processor. For small amounts, grate the bread on a hand grater or place it between sheets of waxed paper or aluminum foil, and crush to the desired size with a rolling pin. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, in the freezer for up to 6 weeks or in a paper bag, in a dry environment, for up to a week. For buttered dry breadcrumbs, see above.
• Cut day-old bread into 1/2-inch cubes or larger. Toss with olive oil and spread out on a baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees until lightly golden, about 20 minutes. Stir the bread around, drizzle with more olive oil, if necessary, and continue baking until fully golden, another 10 to 15 minutes. Remove and let cool. Store in plastic bags or containers in the freezer for up to 6 weeks or in a paper bag, in a dry environment, for up to 5 days.
• Sprinkle toasted buttered breadcrumbs over deviled eggs.
• Spread tapenade on garlic toasts.
• Cut garlic toasts into triangles and use for dips.
• Place garlic-rubbed toast in the bottom of a soup bowl and ladle minestrone, white bean or other thick soup over the bread.
• Ladle French onion, fresh fava bean or beef barley soup into ovenproof bowls, top with a slice of garlic-rubbed bread, sprinkle each with a tablespoon or so of Gruyère and a teaspoon of Parmesan cheese, and bake at 350 degrees until the edges of the toasts are brown and the cheese is bubbling, about 15 minutes.
• Top any soup with homemade croutons.
• Top tomato halves with a mixture of minced garlic, dry breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and parsley. Dot with butter or drizzle with olive oil and bake at 400 degrees until the tomatoes are soft, about 15 to 20 minutes.
• Pack steamed broccoli into a buttered baking dish and sprinkle with a mixture of fresh breadcrumbs, salt and pepper, and dot with butter. Bake at 350 degrees until the topping is golden, about 15 minutes.
• Mix thinly sliced young zucchini with shredded Gruyère cheese and season with salt and pepper. Soak two or three slices of day-old bread, crusts removed, in milk. Squeeze the milk out and mix the soft bread with the zucchini and cheese. Mix again with a beaten egg. Put in a buttered or oil-greased baking dish, shower with fresh or dry breadcrumbs and a sprinkle of Gruyère, and dot with butter. Bake at 350 degrees until puffed and golden, about 30 minutes.
• Dip sliced green tomatoes in egg, then in breadcrumbs seasoned with salt and pepper and fry about 2 minutes per side.
• Toss spaghetti with olive oil, buttered breadcrumbs, parsley and anchovies.
• Drizzle cooked penne or bowtie pasta with 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Chop fresh tomatoes or cut cherry tomatoes in half to make 1 cup. Add this to the pasta along with a tablespoon or two of chopped parsley and 1/4 cup pitted olives. Tear two or three garlic toasts into pieces and add to the pasta. Toss and serve with a bowl of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Fish and shellfish
• Brush whole trout with butter. Roll in seasoned breadcrumbs and bake at 400 degrees until the crust is golden and the meat pulls easily from the bone, about 12 to 15 minutes.
• Mix a large can of salmon with 2 eggs, minced green pepper, minced green onions, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, a little cayenne, salt and pepper. Add 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs. Pack the mixture into ramekins or a baking dish, top with more breadcrumbs and dot with butter. Bake at 350 degrees until heated through and the top is golden.
Meat and poultry
• Sauté 1 pound of lean ground beef with half a chopped onion, 3 or 4 cloves of chopped garlic, 1 rib chopped celery, 1 chopped carrot. Add 1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs and 1 tablespoon of tomato sauce or cream. Steam 8 large cabbage leaves until limp. Lay some of the stuffing mixture down the center of each cabbage leaf and fold, envelope fashion. Place seam-side down, snugly fitting, in a baking dish. Cover with tomato sauce and bake until bubbly and heated through. Serve with rice or pasta.
• Mix 1 pound of ground veal with 1 egg, 1/2 to 3/4 cup dry breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, 1 teaspoon chopped parsley, 2 tablespoons drained, chopped capers, 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves. Shape into golf ball-size meatballs. Bring a pan of chicken or other broth to a boil, along with a bay leaf, a half carrot and half stalk of celery. Reduce to a simmer, add the meatballs and poach until cooked through, about 12 minutes. Remove and serve hot with rice and braised greens.
• Roll 1 pound of 11/2-inch-cubed chicken breast or pork in breadcrumbs seasoned with salt and pepper. Fry them in olive oil until cooked through, about 6 or 7 minutes. Remove to a paper towel to drain. In the bottom of a bowl, make a vinaigrette with 21/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. Coarsely chop 4 large tomatoes. Place tomatoes and their juices in a bowl. Add 2 handfuls of baby arugula and 2 handfuls of garlic croutons or torn garlic toasts. Add the warm chicken and toss well.
• Dip 4 pork cutlets in beaten egg, dredge in flour and then in dry breadcrumbs. Sauté in butter and scatter with drained capers.
• Make a vinaigrette in the bottom of a salad bowl. Add 4 handfuls of frisée, white parts, primarily. Top with fried garlic toast and a poached egg.
• Make a vinaigrette in the bottom of a bowl, adding crushed garlic, a little Dijon mustard. Crush 3 or 4 anchovy fillets into the mixture. Tear 2 hearts of romaine into bite-size pieces. Toss well. Top with croutons of your choice.
• Make a salad with romaine, walnuts and apples. Dress with a white balsamic vinaigrette and toss with torn toasts of walnut bread.
• Make a Dungeness crab salad and serve it on top of brioche toasts.
• Make a vinaigrette in the bottom of a bowl. Add 3 cups torn escarole leaves, inner ivory-colored parts only, 1/2 cup Gruyère cheese cubes, 1/4 cup toasted walnuts, 3 or 4 slices fried bacon, crumbled, and 1 cup homemade croutons.
• Place several thin toasts on a platter. Top with thin slices of raw or seared beef tenderloin, a handful of arugula, a sprinkle of shaved Parmesan cheese and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.
• Make a favorite bread pudding using brioche bread, dried nectarines and raisins.
• Soak 4 thick slices of brioche or challah in 2 to 3 beaten eggs until saturated, about 2 minutes, turning once. Fry the slices in butter and serve with kumquats, cherries or other fruits in syrup.