Autumn is a wonderful time for entertaining, especially with a brunch party. Cooler temperatures and shorter days seem to welcome lazy, late-morning gatherings that linger into the afternoon as you and your guests enjoy delicious, robust foods.
ITALIAN STRATA WITH TOMATOES, BELL PEPPER & SWISS CHEESE
1/2 pound (500 g) stale, country-style whole wheat or multigrain bread
1 garlic clove, halved
Olive oil-flavored nonstick cooking spray
1 cup (250 mL) finely shredded, reduced-fat Swiss cheese
1 large red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and torn into thin strips
2 large ripe tomatoes, cored and thinly sliced
3 large cage-free eggs
3 large cage-free egg whites
2 cups (500 mL) buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C).
With a sharp bread knife, cut the bread into slices 3/4 inch (18 mm) thick. Rub one or both sides of each bread slice with the cut sides of the garlic clove halves, using more or less depending on how garlicky you want the strata to be. Then, cut the bread into 3/4-inch (18-mm) cubes.
Lightly coat the inside of a 12-by-10-inch (30-by-25-cm) baking dish, gratin dish or a heavy nonstick 10-inch (25-cm) skillet with nonstick cooking spray.
Place the bread cubes in the dish or skillet in a single, even layer. Evenly sprinkle half of the cheese over the bread. Evenly layer the bell pepper strips and tomato slices on top, and then sprinkle the remaining cheese evenly over the peppers and tomatoes.
Put the eggs and egg whites in a mixing bowl and beat them lightly with a fork. Add the buttermilk, red pepper flakes, oregano, plus salt and pepper to taste, and beat until thoroughly combined. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the layered ingredients in the baking dish.
Bake the strata in the preheated oven until it looks slightly puffed up and the top is golden brown, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove the dish from the oven and let it set at room temperature for at least 10 minutes before using a large serving spoon to scoop it onto individual serving plates.
by Wolfgang Puck,
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