Sunday, March 28, 2010

Strata is my new favorite food

I don't know if you noticed from my last few posts, but I've been adding goat cheese to everything.  I bought a big log of it at Trader Joe's (such a great price), and I opened it up to add to the roasted garlic pasta a few posts back.  Once it was opened, I realized that I had close to 11 oz of goat cheese that I desperately needed to use up.  When looking through my bookmarked recipes, I found this.  Typically, the purpose of a strata is to use up old bread.  Since mine was to use up the goat cheese, I had to purchase some artisan bread just for this dish.  I bought it the day before, and then let it sit out to let it get a little stale.  Somehow it was still soft in the center when I started to cut it up.  Next time, I would probably toast it a little to really dry it out.  It is pretty ironic that when I buy bread to actually eat, it seems to go stale immediately, but when I want it to go stale, it stays fresh and soft.
The bread I bought was a rosemary artisan loaf in the bakery section at Harris Teeter.  I used some of it to eat with my pasta and veggies dinner the night before, used most of it for this, and still had some left to eat with subsequent dinners.  And of course, it was still fresh then.  I made this on the 23rd, and it lasted me the entire week.
It was insanely delicious!  And really simple to make.  I changed it up slightly - I used leeks instead of onions, whole milk instead of heavy cream, dried rosemary instead of sage, a 15 oz can of diced tomatoes instead of a 28 oz can, and I added sun dried tomatoes and fresh basil.  This recipe is really easy to adapt.  As long as your solid to liquid ratio stays about the same, you can add anything to this.
Oh and I accidentally added the goat cheese last, instead of adding it and then pouring over the liquid.  Whoops!  It still turned out great though.

Recipe: Tomato, Basil and Goat Cheese Strata (Adapted from Baking and Books)
~10 sun dried tomato halves, dry packed
2-3 tbsp olive oil
6 eggs (I used brown organic)
1 cup whole milk
1/2 tbsp dried thyme
1/2 tbsp dried rosemary (rub together to break it up so you don't get huge long pieces)
2 medium-large leeks
4 garlic cloves, chopped (I got lazy at this point and just used 4 cubes of frozen crushed garlic)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
15 oz canned diced tomatoes (I used roasted garlic flavor) with their juices
1 tsp coarse sea salt
freshly cracked pepper
1/2 lb day-old rosemary artisan bread
1/4 lb goat cheese, crumbled
basil leaves, julienned
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

This step can be done in advance - it'll give time to develop the flavor.  Chop up the sun dried tomato halves.  Put them in a small shallow dish and add the olive oil, trying to cover all of them.
Preheat the oven to 425 F.  Whisk the eggs, milk, and dried herbs.
Cut off the dark green portions of the leeks (I added this to my freezer scraps).  Slice the white and light green parts down the center, and rinse really well.  Leeks tend to hold onto a lot of dirt and grit.  Shake off the excess water, and thinly slice them.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the oil and the sun dried tomatoes, and heat up.  Add the leeks and cook until they start to brown and they are fully translucent and soft.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, cook for a few more minutes.  Add tomatoes with juices and salt, and let it simmer for a few minutes, until nice and thick.
Cube the bread, into about 1-inch pieces.  Add the bread to the tomato mixture, and toss well to coat.
Grease a glass 8x8 baking dish.  Put the tomato and bread mixture in the dish, add the crumbled goat cheese and basil on top, and then pour the milk and egg mixture over everything.  Sprinkle the freshly grated parmesan right on top.

Bake until the strata is set, and the cheese is a golden brown - about 20-30 minutes.  Let it rest for a few minutes after coming out, and then it is ready to eat!

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