By popular demand (two comments), I will soon post occasionally on ways to use dried bread. Right now, though, I feel the urge to inform (or remind, if you already knew this) that dried CHEESE is also a treasure.
I'm not talking about soft cheese covered with pink mold. I hope you never let your cheese get like that. I'm talking about dried out hard cheese. A little truc that I first learned about from one of Martha Shulman's old cookbooks is to throw parmesan rinds into your soup. Most recommend this for minestrone, where it provides an obviously compatible enrichment.
This is, of course, great with parmesano reggiano (almost as expensive in Italy as here), but it's also good with any block parmesan or its relatives asiago and pecorino. I saw a tub of reggiano ends at Whole Foods a while back: I think it was priced at $8.99/lb, so the secret is out.
You can also use dried up cheddar and the like in any soup where it suits your fancy.
The Wall Street Journal recently ran a story on winter greens, which had a recipe that used parmesan ends.
Parmesan broth with Swiss chard and white beans
A deeply satisfying soup that can compete with chicken noodle as a winter cure-all.Serves 4 to 6.
Over low heat, steep 8 cups chicken stock with 8 ounces Parmesan rinds for about 45 minutes, until the rinds are soft. Strain the liquid and reserve. // In a heavy-bottomed soup pot, sauté 1 smashed garlic clove in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat until garlic just begins to color. Add 1 dried red chili, crumbled; 4 cups loosely packed Swiss chard, stems removed and leaves cut into ribbons; and stir to coat. //Add the warm, strained stock and 2 cups canned cannellini beans and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper and add a teaspoon lemon zest. To serve, ladle soup over a slice of toasted country bread and drizzle with olive oil. —Sara Jenkins of Porsena and Porchetta, New York
Hmmmm. Strange to think of finding recipes in the WSJ. I'd rather read a recipe than the self-aggrandizing essay on the Tiger Mother (how to raise superior children the Chinese mother way) that is THE MOST READ ARTICLE in the history of the on-line WSJ.
Which would you rather read?