How to make a dish that’s a complete meal for four with ingredients that came exclusively from this week’s Plenty! Food Pantry? At this risk of being boring, it’s another delicious egg dish. Next time it won’t be – I promise. I tried to make an Indian-style creamed spinach with chicken last week but it didn’t turn out very well and needs a do-over. Fortunately spinach is currently in-season at Plenty!
So I had the the usual great veggies, a dozen eggs and some great whole wheat bagels – what can I make that uses all of that? A strata…. The strata is a baked egg dish made of several layers with bread chunks at the bottom. It’s kind of like a savory French Toast combined with an omelette – but it’s easier to make than both of those. Since most of the cooking time is in the baking, it’s really simple and it’s a great way to make use of leftovers like meat, random veggies and “less fresh” bread (in the old days, French Toast was how cooks made use of stale bread).
Regarding the bagels: Plenty has awesome stuff every week but an area that we consistently excel is the Bread Department. Almost every week we have a wide representation of bread to suit almost any taste, from the soft white to whole grain bread plus bagels, english muffins, french bread and specialty items from restaurants which I’m pretty sure I can’t name here.
Like most casseroles, strata ingredients can vary, so feel free to improvise. For this one I used:
A dozen eggs
3 Handfuls of chopped broccoli
3 Handfuls of chopped spinach
One diced red peppers
4-5 Bagels, toasted and chopped into one inch cubes
½ Cup milk
½ Cup cheddar (totally optional. I didn’t really notice it and would have left it out of this recipe but it weren’t in the pictures)
Spices: salt and pepper to taste, herbs like basil or oregano if you have them.
First, lightly toast the bagels for a couple minutes under the broiler. It takes some moisture out and makes them less heavy but might not be necessary, as the experts do not agree. Leave the oven on afterward so it preheats to 400 degrees.
Cut or tear the bagels into one inch-ish chunks. Spread half of them into the lightly greased bottom of your 12”x8”-ish baking dish, like so:
Chop your broccoli and put most of it on top of the bagel chunks. If you have some leftover ham or one of Plenty!’s cans of chicken breast, like I was wishing I had – I’d layer it on top of the broccoli. Next time I will definitely add some halved cherry or sliced tomatoes at this point.
Chop up your spinach.. In a big bowl – mix up your eggs with the half cup of milk and add salt and pepper and whatever other herbs or spices float your boat (I put turmeric in almost everything). Then add the veggies and mix well.
And real quickly pour the entire mixing bowl over the casserole dish, before the bagels bits soak up all the eggs in the bowl. Sprinkle the optional cheese on top. It might look a little weird, with the eggs sinking beneath the other stuff. Don’t worry…
…. Because after 30 minutes at 400 degrees on the middle rack, the whole thing rises considerably and kinda swells up like a wonderful big pastry or loaf of bread.My editor has made me aware that some people might not like how I like to brown the top of stuff. Keep an eye on it in the last 5 minutes to prevent this. My editor says she will make sure I avoid this in the future. I hadn’t made this before and it turned out really well. Like most baked casserole dishes it’s very forgiving and a few changes or a few minutes aren’t going to make a big difference. I took a better picture with an added dollop of sour cream but I can’t find it. Enjoy!
….If you’ve read this far, you might want to read more. The recipe that I adapted this dish from is called “Sunday Brunch: Empty the Fridge Strata” from seriouseats.com, which is my favorite cooking website. Their version is definitely more concise, but in the future I hope to be paid by the word.
– Douglas the Cook’n with Plenty! Chef