Monday, March 7, 2011

Feta & Spinach Strata

It's not very often that you get inspired to cook from a Natural Sciences class, but as you can imagine the word "strata" comes up a bit when talking about geological formations and the levels of the atmosphere! It got me thinking...

Many people may not know what a Strata is, but it's a very easy and economical dish using things I know you have on hand.  Bread, eggs, milk... and other goodies.  It's a savory bread pudding if you will.  I'm sure that many of your mothers, or grandmothers, relied on variations of this dish to use the bits and pieces of leftover bread and to feed hungry families. This a great way to make ahead a dinner, and bake it when you get home from work, or make a great brunch dish the day before.

I'm not a Vegetarian, and I do like veggies a lot, but I will admit to love, love, loving meat.  That said, I've elected to make this a meatless dish, and would encourage you to incorporate one meatless dish each week.  The energy and resources that go into raising a pound of meat have a high cost to our environment in the use of fossil fuels and water usage.  If everyone would reduce the total amount of meat they eat by going 'meatless' one day each week, it would make a big difference. 

I will give you some other ideas and variations on Strata below, just know you can easily customize this to use what you have around the kitchen, and make a great meal that is perfect for breakfast or dinner.

12 slices of bread, preferably 8 white and 4 wheat
4 oz crumbled feta
1-2 cups mozzarella, grated
2 cups chopped spinach sauteed
1/2 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes
4 eggs
1 1/3 cups milk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried mustard, or 2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1-2 tsp olive oil
3 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
seasoning salt

In an 8x8 pan, butter or spray the pan to make it easier to get the finished product out!

Chop your spinach and give it a quick saute over medium heat just to wilt it up and make it easy to layer in the steps below!

Cut the crusts off your bread, set aside and make them into breadcrumbs for your topping, or freeze for a later use.

Make one layer of the bread, top with sauteed spinach and grated mozzarella cheese. Salt and Pepper this layer.   

Add another layer of bread, then top with the chopped sun-dried tomatoes and the crumbled feta, add more salt and pepper.  Top with the last layer of bread.

Beat the eggs, Dijon mustard and the milk together, and slowly pour on top of the bread in the pan.  It should soak in around the edges and moisten the entire pan.  Cover with plastic and put into the fridge.  It is best to have it sit over night, but I think you might be able to get away with only an hour or two.

When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350.  Add topping to the Strata, you could use just grated cheese, but I like to use the breadcrumbs and Parmesan moistened with a bit of olive oil and seasoned with some seasoning salt as I listed above.

Bake 45 minutes until golden and crispy.  Serve at once while hot, but it also good at room temperature or even cold!   
This photo is a portion of the HOT strata, but I wasn't happy you can see the layers very well, so I took another picture the next day of a COLD strata... which is the one shown above!

What else could I do with this recipe?
  • Make it a Mexican theme with drained pico de gallo and a Mexican blend of cheeses.  Add a sprinkle of chili powder and/or cumin to each layer.
  • Ham, Swiss and Mushrooms are a perfect combination.
  • Goat cheese and roasted red peppers, kalamata olives... oh yum!
  • Take a look in your fridge, I bet you have some great things that would be terrific. You got it, use it up!!!

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