Some dishes are a “blank slate” upon which a cook can improvise a meal using ingredients on hand. Think pizza. Just a bit of dough partnered up with a seemingly infinite combination of topping possibilities including cheeses, sauces, meats, vegetables, even fruit! The same principle applies to pasta dishes. The combinations and permutations of types of pasta, to varieties of sauces, and other ”mix-ins” ingredients boggles my mind.
A strata makes another enticing canvas for culinary creations using what you find in your pantry and fridge. Plus it makes a great brunch dish - Bonus! I found myself a wee bit overwhelmed with greens from my CSA one week and turned to this basic strata recipe to make the most of some spring onions, kale, spinach, garlic, ground pork, and goat cheese (and whew, I freed up a lot of fridge shelf space in the process).
Consider this list of ingredients merely a suggestion. The benefit of this recipe is that it can be customized, refined, tweaked even. As long as the basic proportions remain about the same, you’re almost guaranteed to turn out something tasty and satisfying.
- 8 oz spinach, chopped
- 8 oz kale, chopped
- 3 spring onions, bulb & greens, chopped
- 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb ground pork (I used Mae Farm pork), browned (omit for a vegetarian dish)
- 1/2 c. milk
- 1 pkg Hillsborough Cheese Co. Jalapeno Goat Cheese (or other flavor of your preference)
- 12 large eggs
- 1/2 loaf day-old Italian bread from La Farm Bakery, cubed (yields about 4 cups)
- Shredded cheese to top, if you like, as well as salt & pepper, to taste.
The most time-consuming step is chopping the vegetables. You can use most any vegetables available. But in the end, you want to have about 2 cups (after cooking) of veggies.
You probably already know that you can brown your meat as you chop those veggies to save some time, so prepping the veg isn’t all that intimidating really. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan, over medium heat, then add the ground pork (again, meat can be omitted – totally optional in this recipe). Once the meat has browned, remove it from the pan, drain off most of the fat (leaving about a tablespoon), and add a little more olive oil to the pan to saute your vegetables. Add salt and pepper to the vegetables, at this point.
In a separate bowl, whisk the milk and goat cheese together until smooth and creamy. Then start cracking those eggs, and whisk them in with your goat cheese/milk mixture.
Next, start working on those bread cubes (resisting the urge to snack as you cube). No need to break out a ruler, but try to make the cubes about one inch square.
Mix the bread cubes with the milk/cheese/egg mixture in a large bowl, until well combined (all the bread cubes should be well coated). Add in the veggies and meat and toss to mix. Then spoon into a lightly greased 13″ x 9″ baking dish.
Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes (or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean). Let the dish set for about ten minutes once removed from the oven. Then slice, serve and wallow in how clever you were to use all those ingredients in fridge.
If you prefer a more relaxed start to your morning, you can assemble the entire dish the night before, cover it, and place in the fridge until the morning. Next morning, uncover the dish and pop it in the oven to bake while you enjoy your cup of coffee and flip through the pages of the latest Our State magazine.
This dish makes eight good-size portions, and satisfies a hungry crowd when served along with fresh, seasonal fruit. Or better yet, you can have brunch for one, every day of the week! Go ahead – treat yourself well. You know you’re worth it.