Friday, November 7, 2008

Making the Most of Leftover Bread

Back when I was growing up, with six in the family, we almost never had leftover bread. Now that I'm cooking for one, I often find myself struggling to use up a loaf of good crusty bread before it goes stale. I love homemade croutons, but I don't eat a lot of salads, so it seems like a the hassle outweighs the use I'd get out of them. (Of course, now that the weather is turning chillier, and soups are once again making regular appearances on my menu, having a supply of good, garlicky croutons on hand seems like a good idea.) Breakfast bread pudding is an option, but I rarely have time to bake and enjoy it in the morning, even on weekends.

My recent browsing of the New York Times series called "Recipes for Health" led me to this recipe for a bread pudding that is savory rather than sweet. The assembly is relatively quick and easy, and the 40-50 minute baking time leaves you plenty of time for other things--like a side dish. I recommend braised greens with some sort of legume, like cannellini beans or chickpeas. It's a rustic, versatile dish that seems like it would lend itself well to variations. Don't be shy with the herbs and cheese--they contribute to the strata's most excellent woodsy, robust flavor.

Savory Bread Pudding With Tomatoes and Herbs

From: New York Times, September 8, 2008
Yield: Serves four to six
Stale baguettes and country breads give me a welcome excuse to make savory Italian bread puddings, called stratas. Add different vegetables in season, such as sautéed mushrooms or greens.

Ingredients

  1. 1/2 pound stale bread, sliced about 1/2 inch thick (see note below)
  2. 1 large garlic clove, cut in half, green shoots removed
  3. 2 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
  4. 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (1/4 cup)
  5. 1 pound firm, ripe tomatoes, sliced
  6. Salt and freshly ground pepper
  7. 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  8. 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  9. 4 large eggs
  10. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  11. 2 cups low-fat milk

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil or butter a two-quart baking dish or gratin. If the bread is soft, toast it lightly and rub all the slices, front and back, with the cut clove of garlic. (If it’s hard and stale, just rub with garlic.) Mince what garlic remains. Combine the two cheeses in a small bowl.
  2. Layer half of the bread slices in the baking dish. Top with half of the tomato slices. Sprinkle the tomato slices with salt and pepper, then with half the thyme and rosemary and half the remaining garlic. Top with half the cheese. Repeat the layers.
  3. Beat together the eggs and milk. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few twists of the pepper mill, then pour over the bread and tomato layers. Place in the oven, and bake 40 to 50 minutes until puffed and browned. Remove from the oven, and serve hot or warm.

Notes

  1. This can be assembled through step 2 a few hours before beating together the eggs and milk and completing the casserole.
  2. Variation: Add 1 pound Swiss chard or beet greens, prepared as they are for Sautéed Beet Greens With Garlic and Olive Oil. Layer the cooked greens over the bread with the tomatoes.
  3. If your bread is too hard to slice, dip it in the milk for about half a minute, then cut it.

4 comments:

Bee said...

Anne, this sounds good. It would be nice for brunch, too. I just came over to copy your red pepper soup recipe . . . which I'm going to make for dinner. I will report back on my results.

Horrid, wet, and windy here. Soup weather for sure.

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

This sounds delicious! I am always looking for something new to do with leftover bread.

Anne said...

Bee, how was the red pepper soup? I'm so eager to try it that I might go to the store and buy peppers (*gasp*) just so that I can make it.

Hi, JAPRA! Welcome, and I hope you like the strata. :)

Bee said...

Anne, the red pepper soup is really good. My children liked it, too, and in fact we ate the left-overs of it last night.