January 18th, 2011

Tomato-Mozzarella Strata

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While I’m not big on resolutions, I decided to begin this year by making an effort to use up Good Things that I had in my pantry: Good Things, before they go Bad.

Too often I have been overly enthusiastic about a product, purchasing, for instance, too much stone ground wheat flour, only to have it turn rancid on the shelf because I didn’t do the bread baking I had envisioned. Or, I’ve been too protective of a product, like a spectacular bottle of reserve extra virgin olive oil, that I “saved” for special use, only to find it months later pushed to the back of the pantry, it, too, gone south.

So, when I was casting about my kitchen last week for a Sunday brunch treat for us, I realized that I had all the Good Things on hand to make this appealing strata:

Tomatoes from the 2009 canning season—–It’s 2011, what are you waiting for?
A bag of cubed bread in the freezer———No Time Like the Present
Fresh Mozzarella from a New Year’s purchase—Use It Now or Lose It
Summer Pesto——That’s why you put it up!

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Stratas are simple. They are mock souffles, and lend themselves to myriad variations. The bread makes them somewhat sturdy, and therefore you can make rather sizeable ones. Once, one of our Third-Thursday Potluckers, Jen, brought a stunning Tomato-Goat Cheese Strata in an 10 qt. Le Creuset pot that was absolutely dreamy—deep, custardy, with a tomato essence that just tasted of summer. It was the hit of the wintertime potluck dinner!

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On a chilling January afternoon, a taste of summer would be most welcome.

And, on this chilling January afternoon, my skillet filled with the tastes of summer. Ah, the acid-candy sweetness of my Brandywines and Lemon Boys. The peppery bite of Genovese basil.

I reminded myself that this is one of the true joys of canning tomatoes—-the first time you crack open the jar in winter. There, red-gold in your hand, are all those sweet aspects of summer-on-the-vine.

It transports you out of the winter drear into the tangle of an August garden.

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I would have made my strata like Jen’s–with goat cheese. The tanginess that it imparted was terrific. But, some delectable Buffalo Mozzarella packed in liquid, stored in my fridge, was not going to remain delectable for long. It was begging to be used, and would be a creamy asset to this strata. Spoonfuls of my summer pesto would give the mild cheese pizzazz.

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Very quickly, the baking vessel fills with glistening layers. You can even make the strata to this point, and refrigerate it overnight to bake fresh in the morning. It’s that easy!

But, the best part awaits you—-when it emerges puffed and beautifully browned from the oven. And, I promise, an airy scoop of this strata will bring last summer’s garden to this winter’s plate.

Bring it!

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TOMATO-MOZZARELLA STRATA
1 medium Onion, sliced thin
2 cloves Garlic, minced
Olive Oil
1 can (16oz) Tomatoes and Juice
3 cups Cubed Stale Bread
4-6 oz. fresh Mozzarella
4 T. Pesto
4 Eggs
1 cup Half-and Half
Salt
Cracked Black Pepper

9×13 casserole dish or 1 qt. size souffle dish

Heat a skillet, add olive oil, and saute onions and garlic until translucent. Add chopped tomatoes and their juice and continue to simmer. Season with salt, black pepper, a dash of red pepper flakes, if you like. When the sauce has cooked for about 10 minutes, remove from heat and stir in the stale bread cubes. Stir until all the bread is coated with the tomato mixture.

In a bowl, beat eggs and half-and-half together until blended. Whisk in a little salt and pepper.

Coat a casserole dish or souffle ramekin with olive oil. Spoon in a layer of tomato-bread mixture. Top with a layer of sliced mozzarella. Spoon some pesto over the mozzarella. Repeat the layering.

Carefully pour the egg mixture over the tomato-cheese layers. You can poke through the strata with a fork, or even a chopstick, to make sure the mixture gets through the layers.

Place into a preheated 350º oven and bake until puffed and golden brown—about 30 minutes. Serves 4

Posted in Breakfast, Egg/Cheese Dishes, Recipes, Vegetables

25 Responses to “Tomato-Mozzarella Strata”
  1. Stacy Says:

    This looks delicious, and what a great way to eat what you have. I need to dig through the freezer and go through the same process- it’s amazing how soon I forget what I store in there!

  2. foodonfifth.com, Teresa Blackburn Says:

    Sounds like the time to drop by your house is on a Sunday…delicious looking strata with all that lovely browned cheese on top…yum.

  3. nancy Says:

    Truly spectacular! An excellent use of Good Things, indeed – and a welcome taste of summer in the depths of winter. I am having home-canned tomato envy right now :)

  4. Faith Says:

    Beautiful strata, Nancy! I love the flavors going on in there and with all that cheesy goodness I would not be able to resist this!

  5. Michele Napoli Says:

    Lucky you to have such delicious bits and bobs –as Kath says– to use up! I try so hard to buy just what we will need, but we all sometimes end up with too much. Perhaps, I will reslove to try to use up all the last bits one day each week.

  6. teresa Says:

    Nancy, I swear we are twins separated at birth!! I too am a food hoarder and “over-buyer”. Because I live in a small town, I’m particularly susceptible to products I don’t have access too except occasionally. I have vacuum packed pecorino from the cheese festival in Pienza circa 2008!! I still have vacuum packed rillettes from France 2009! Always waiting for “special” occasion. I also have more generic things and will be more proactive in using them. This looks great; made a variant from Ina Garten at Christmas and yours looks much better: hers was too sweet and I love the pesto (which I do make, freeze in cubes and USE). Thanks so much

  7. Kath Says:

    Ha ha, brilliant, my bits and bobs are becoming part of the American tongue. Thank you Michele. This dish looks sooo good it is making my mouth water just reading about it. A sturdy souffle you say? That sounds just up my street and I am loving the bubbling over bits, they make it look very tasty indeed.

  8. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Kath and Michele—we love the bits and bobs!!

    teresa—love reading about your special food hoards. I guess the real
    lesson for us over-buyers and hoarders is: that “special occasion” is Now.

  9. Sruthi @ Exercise, Food & Beyond Says:

    This looks delicious, it will be a big hit in my house.

  10. blackbookkitchendiaries Says:

    this looks so good right now. i can almost taste it through my screen.. gorgeous pictures too! thanks for sharing this. have a great day.

  11. Anna Johnston Says:

    Oh yes, super yummy this is too. I’ve made stratas like this too, you can pretty much let your head go when it comes to little bits ‘n pieces available, I’ve made one like this & threw in some strong italian sausage I had & served it as a side as well. Love stratas for a rich summery taste anytime of the year.

  12. Cathy Says:

    Sometimes the best meals result from using what’s on hand, because we are forced to be creative. Another triumph, Nancy!

  13. Barbara Says:

    Nancy!!!! This looks so dang good. And, I think even a novice like myself can do it! Our tomatoes from last summer never really happened due to crummy weather. How would store bought canned tomatoes do? I really want to make this. Is there a particular store brand that is better then most? I want this!

  14. FOODESSA Says:

    Nancy…It’s nice to know I have a soul-Foodie-mate out there that is overly enthusiastic about the recipes she’ll make. This is something I’ve been struggling with and thankfully beginning to see the light at the end of the pantry / fridge tunnel. LOL
    I’m totally ashamed if ever something has to be thrown away due to my negligence to pay attention to what I already had on hand. My community center loves my over-spending food habits…so I guess it’s not all bad :)
    Let’s all get with the program and get a very appetizing Strata going…great creative cooking Nancy ;o)

    Ciao for now,
    Claudia

  15. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Barbara–I would buy canned whole roma (Italian) tomatoes packed in their juice. They are really meaty, flavorful tomatoes, and commonly found on most grocery shelves. You’ll want to coarsely chop them up for the mixture. I know that you can make this and will enjoy it!

  16. Denise | Chez Danisse Says:

    Oh my gosh. It looks absolutely delicious. I want some now.

  17. Juliana Says:

    Nancy, I never had strata…now I really want to try it…it sure looks so tasty :-)

  18. Barbara Says:

    I love stratas for that very reason…overnight and then ready to go with no work.
    I’ve made breakfast stratas and one with cheddar and ham for dinner, but yours takes the prize! I am drooling.

  19. Tammy Says:

    That looks amazing! And I have to admit that I’ve never considered freezing bread cubes but it’s a fabulous idea.

  20. Christine @ Fresh Local and Best Says:

    Oh this looks so good! It’s like a savory cheese-filled tomato bread pudding. By the way, I’m as guilty as you are of stocking shelves exuberantly without having in mind how I am going to use it.

  21. Joyti Says:

    Like you, I am longing for summer food. And the strata (I’ve never heard of strata, so thank you for the explanation) sounds very summery and delicious indeed.

  22. Kelli Says:

    Speaking of using leftovers, I have some leftover whole milk that I used for baking but do not drink. Could I sub the whole milk for the half and half? I’m still a novice cook, so you’ll have to excuse me if the answer is obvious to those who are more experienced. Thanks for your insight!

  23. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Kelli, I think that it would be fine in this instance to substitute the half and half with your whole milk. It is always good to use what you’ve got, if it works! Hope you enjoy the strata–



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