Panko

Farmers market strata with panko

It’s a funny word but once you discover panko, you’ll never go back to regular bread crumbs. Many recipes call for panko, Japanese style breadcrumbs, as a finisher or for breading. They’re definitely a specialty item and as such can seem expensive. But they can absolutely make your dish better. Use them in place of breadcrumbs in any recipe.

Eggplant dip with panko

They are not mysterious and are actually quite easy to make yourself. If your family is like mine, they tend to discard the bread heels in favor of the softer middle. I happen to like the heels toasted, but I can only eat so many. So, as they pile up, I simply toss them into a freezer bag. When I have enough saved up, I turn them into homemade panko.

Grate your bread

The key to making panko light and airy like the commercial ones rather than just standard bread crumbs, is to grate them. Use the large holes on a box grater or food processor. Then spread them in a thin layer on a cookie sheet with sides (I use a broiler pan).

Don’t let them burn

If you have a convection oven, put it on “convect bake” at 325 degrees. For a standard oven, set to bake at 350. Now here’s the warning: you have to watch them carefully. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve let them burn because I got occupied with something else. Cook for about 10 minutes and then stir. Repeat this process until they are nutty brown – it may take only 20 minutes. Take them out and let them cool completely.

Store in glass

Once they are completely cool and crispy dry, store them in a glass jar. It’s critical that they be dry and cool because you don’t want any condensation that could make them mold. Don’t be afraid to use your hands to stir them around when cool to make sure they are crisp. If they aren’t, put them back in the oven for a bit.

Use them freely to dress the tops of casseroles, roasted vegetables and even broiled fruits. They make great additions to harvest cakes, to roasted eggplant to make a tasty dip, or as breading for fried zucchini or tomatoes.

Season the panko

You can also season them before cooking for Italian flavored, Greek flavored or Asian flavored. Blend the herbs to make a fine powder that will stick to the breadcrumbs. Add before cooking the panko. Mix well and cook as above.

Greek Panko

3 T. oregano
2 T. basil
1 T. dill
2 T. onion powder
2 T. garlic powder
½ T. salt
1 T. black pepper

Italian Panko

2 T. dried basil
2 T. dried oregano
2 T. dried rosemary
2 T. dried thyme
2 T. dried marjoram

Asian Panko

¼ c. onion powder
¼ c. garlic powder
¼ c. ground black pepper
2 T. ground ginger
2 T. red pepper flakes

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