Monday, April 9, 2012
I found tonight's recipe in an all-natural cookbook that I received from my friend Gail for Christmas. This is one of those cookbooks that has both beautiful photographs and fantastic recipes. I get excited every time I run across this type of book because I appreciate knowing how my final product should appear. The only problem that occurs with a book that is compiled this well, is narrowing my choices down to one recipe. After much deliberation with this cookbook, I settled on Spinach Strata. I have never prepared a strata before and in fact, did not know exactly what a strata entailed. I did some quick research and learned that strata is a layered baked dish of eggs, cheese, bread and often sausage, vegetables and/or herbs. Once I knew what I was getting myself into, I was ready to roll with the following recipe.
grated zest of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil plus extra for drizzling
2 tsp Dijon-style mustard
1/2 tsp fine grain sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 cups milk
6 large eggs
3 cups day old 1/2-inch whole wheat bread cubes
2 cups finely chopped baby spinach
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tsp fresh oregano leaves, chopped
Rub a splash of olive oil in a 9-inch square baking dish (or equivalent). Alternatively, line it with parchment paper. Sprinkle baking dish or parchment paper with lemon zest and set aside. In medium bowl, whisk olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper with a splash of milk. Whisk in remainder of milk and eggs.
Put bread in prepared baking dish and top with spinach and half of feta. Gently toss with your hands, just enough that spinach and cheese mix with all pieces of bread. Make sure bread is relatively level in baking dish. Very slowly drizzle egg mixture over bread and sprinkle with remaining feta. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in top third of oven. Bake strata, uncovered, for 45 to 55 minutes, until egg is set in the middle and edges are browned. Cut into center a bit to make sure the strata is well cooked. If desired, brown top more under broiler on low setting. Skip this step if using parchment paper. Serve warm, drizzled with a bit of olive oil and sprinkled with fresh oregano.
Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy
When all was said and done, this strata was quite delicious. It reminded me of a cross between bread stuffing and frittata. The simplicity of ingredients made the dish fresh and light but still substantial enough to serve for dinner. I particularly liked the finish of fresh oregano but I think I would have liked it even better had half of it been incorporated into the egg portion of the recipe. This dish would have benefited from the oregano flavor melding in with other ingredients as the strata baked.
The only other change I would make is to cut the bread into 1/2-inch cubes as called for in the recipe. I misread the directions and cut my bread into 1-inch cubes. Oops...... clearly my fault but I don't think it made that much of a difference with my final product. The texture would have changed a bit but the flavor would have been very similar or the same.
All in all, this dish was tasty and fun to make. Even better, it has peaked my interest in other types of strata. You may even see another version featured later this year.
"Super Natural Every Day" by Heidi Swanson