Thursday, May 15, 2008
The weather is warming up. Yayyyy!!!! Heavy stews are put away for a while (at least they are for me) and being replace by lighter fare. Not many things turn my crank for leisurely brunch fare than eggs with substance - and how can you possibly go wrong with a combination of ricotta cheese, peppers and basil smothered in eggs and parmesan. Be still my heart.
2 - red bell peppers, roasted and cut into 1 inch-wide strips or 1 jar (about 10 oz) roasted red pepper s, with equivalent amount of strips drained and patted dry, enough to cover 1 strata layer.
1 - tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 - small garlic clove, minced
1 - 15 oz. container ricotta cheese
1 - cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about 4 oz>), divided
5 - large eggs, divided
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
2 1//2 - cups milk
1/2 lb firm Italian bread, preferably 1 day old, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices or 1-inch cubes (8 cups total)
2 - Tbsp freshly chopped basil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Position broiler rack about 2 inches from heat source and preheat broiler. Line baking sheet with foil and arrange peppers shoulder to shoulder. Broil, turning peppers with tongs as they blacken, until evenly charred - about 20 minutes. This can also be done on the BBQ or on top of a gas stove.
Remove from broiler. Fold foil about pepepers and seal. As peppers cool, skins will loosen. When peppers have cooled, peel skins with small paring knife or fingertips. Skins should come off easily.
Separate peppers into quarters or halves along natural contours. Discard seeds and stems, then pull out any remaining thick white ribs. Do not rinse peppers. Slice into 1-inch-wide strips.
In small bowl, combine roasted peppers, oil, garlic, pinch of kosher salt and grinding of pepper. Set aside.
In medium bowl, whisk together ricotta, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, 1 egg and a few grindings of nutmeg. Set aside.
In separate medium bowl, whisk remaining 4 eggs until blended, then whisk in milk, remaining 1/2 cup parmesan, 1/2 tsp salt and grinding of pepper.
(NOTE: I left out the extra salt since the parmesan is plenty salty)
To Assemble Strata:
- Lightly coat 2-quart (medium) shallow glass baking dish with butter. (I used a 9x11 - I could have and probably should have used a 13 x 11)
- Use half of bread pieces or slices to make a single layer in the baking dish, cutting slices if necessary to fit tightly
- Spread ricotta mixture evenly over bread.
- Sprinkle with basil
- Scatter roasted red pepper mixture ono top and drizzle with any juices left in bowl
- Use remaining bread pieces or slices to make second layer, cutting slices again to fit if necessary
- Pour egg mixture evenly over top of strata, using spatula to press on bread so liquid is evenly absorbed.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight.
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Uncover strata and bake until puffed and browned - about 45 minutes. (mine was done in 55 minutes)
The verdict: It's light, it's delicious and it's very satisfying. The 9x11 pan turned out to be just fine - it doesn't puff up as much as I expected originally. Combine it with a salad and you have one terrific meal.
This recipe was adapted from "The Good Egg: More than 200 Fresh Approaches from Breakfast to Dessert", Marie Simmons (2006, Houghton Mifflin)