Though I love cooking in all its forms, I must admit that I get a particular thrill out of transforming leftovers into new dishes. Doing so not only uses every bit of food in my kitchen, but also reduces the weekly grocery shopping bill while satisfying our taste buds – all in one fell swoop.
Last week I learned how to make baguettes so you know what we had a lot of: bread. Not just one loaf, not two, but three – because practice makes perfect right? One of them we gave away but that still left us with two loaves of whole wheat bread to use before (and after) they went stale. Naturally our consumption began with sandwiches, then we progressed to bruschetta – lightly oiled and grilled slices of bread topped with a mixture of diced olives, tomatoes, arugula, garlic and goat cheese. After placing them under the broiler for a few minutes, just long enough for the mixture to warm, we drizzled each piece with premium grade balsamic vinegar. We relished each crunchy bite of this easy-to-prepare meal on Friday, only to look up and realize that we still had half a baguette to use.
The solution? Strata! If you haven’t tried this concoction of eggs, cheese, cream and bread you should give it a go soon. Like French toast, it’s a delectable way to use day-old pieces of bread, creating something like a quiche with the crust mixed in. More than this it’s open to a wide array of variation. From tomatoes and onions to pancetta and spinach, whatever you like (and have in your fridge) is fair game – yet another reason strata is great when it comes to using leftover bits of this and that. The strata pictured above was made with dried thyme and sage, tomatoes, onions, goat cheese and Parmesan. All simple ingredients, but lovely on a lazy Saturday evening.
Before the recipe one quick note: I’ve revamped the Books section of this site which, much to my chagrin, has been shockingly slow for the past couple months. A seemingly endless search for the perfect WordPress plugin ensued, until this weekend when I finally found it: Now Reading. So my apologies for the sluggish library section of days gone by. Please bear with me as I add all my reviews to the new database over the next couple weeks.
Tomato Goat Cheese Strata
Slightly adapted from Fresh Food Fast, by Peter Berley
Ingredients: Serves 4
- 6 large eggs
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1/2 tablespoon dried sage
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes with their juice
- 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
- 1/2 pound day-old artisanal bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 6 cups)
- 1/4 pound fresh goat cheese
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Set a rack on the middle shelf of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, thyme and sage. Set aside.
Place a large (10 to 12 inch) ovenproof saute pan over high heat. When the pan is hot add the olive oil, then the onions, and cook until lightly golden brown, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute, stirring, for 1 more minute. Add the tomatoes and salt and bring to a simmer.
Stir the bread into the mixture. Crumble the goat cheese over the bread, then pour the egg and cream mixture over everything and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Bake until the strata has set and is golden on top, about 25 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Other herb combos to try: parsley and sage, rosemary and thyme, oregano and basil. If using fresh herbs remember that the fresh to dry herb ratio is 3 to 1. In other words, for every 1 tablespoon of dry herbs you would substitute 3 tablespoons of fresh herbs.