Breakfast for Dinner

Breakfast for dinner is such a great idea - its usually pretty easy, pretty filling, and even hits a variety of food groups!

Lately I've been working hard on finding dinners to prep the night before so they are ready to go the next night for dinner. This strata is a great example. It took a little pre-preparation, but I had time on Sunday to do a few of these things (dry the tomatoes, cook the ham, cut the bread, etc...). Last night, I combined the bread, cheese, tomatoes, and ham in the baking dish and in a bowl, whisked the milk, cream, eggs, and seasoning. This morning I poured the eggs over and let it sit in the fridge, and when I got home at 5, I tossed it in the oven and it'll be good to go in just a few minutes! Can't wait...

Ham and Cheese Strata with Oven-Dried Tomatoes
Adapted from Food Network

1 pint grape tomatoes, washed and halved
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
10 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup fat free cream
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup diced baked ham
1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons thinly sliced fresh chives
2 cups shredded cheese (your choice)
2 demi-loaves sourdough bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (should be about 16oz by weight)

Do ahead: Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.  Toss tomatoes with olive oil and salt. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 1.5-2 hours, until slightly shriveled but not dried completely. If not using immediately, store the tomatoes in a sealed container in the refrigerator, for 3 to 4 days.

For strata: Spray a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, nutmeg, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Set aside. In a small bowl, toss together the bread, ham, tomatoes, parsley, chives and cheese.

Pour the egg mixture over the strata and gently press it down with the back of a large spoon to make sure the top layer is moistened with the custard. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the strata, uncovered, until golden brown and slightly puffed, about 45 to 55 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 6 to 8 servings


More Rice For Dinner

Last Friday night, I made rice pudding for my dinner. So this Friday, I'm using rice again, although this time it may be a slightly more appropriate dish for a main meal.  Many times I've made risotto when Steve is off at work on a Friday night.  To just stand there and stir a pot, adding things slowly and watching it come together - its very theraputic after a long week of working.
A few things I've noticed:
  • You can use a medium/large saucepan or a large sauté pan that's deep enough to hold it all and stir.  I think making it in a saucepan lets the starch develop a little more, but in a sauté pan, it goes a little faster because there's more surface area.
  • Use an onion that has a lot of flavor to it. I like vidalia's for most things, but they're not strong enough for this. Spanish yellow onions work well.
  • Go for the chicken stock. Once I used chicken broth and had to make it go a little farther with water, and the flavor was much weaker.
  • You've got to use the real deal when it comes to parmesan cheese - you want it to melt, and the Kraft parm (or similar type) just doesn't melt and mix as well.
Classic Risotto
Adapted from... lots of places

1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon oil (olive oil or canola will do just fine)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
4-5 cups chicken stock
parmesan cheese for grating

In a saucepan, begin to heat your chicken stock on medium-low heat (this will not be the same pan you use to make the actual risotto).

Over medium-high heat, melt butter with oil in pan - add onions and sauté until soft and slightly translucent.  Pour in wine and stir to deglaze the pan; simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Add rice and stir well - allow to get dry, almost as if you are toasting the rice. 

Once dry, add enough chicken stock to just come to the top of the rice.  Allow to simmer, stirring frequently, until all of the moisture has been absorbed. Repeat this step until rice has become tender and the mixture is creamy (35-45 minutes). You don't have to stir constantly, but I wouldn't wander too far from the stove.  When risotto is almost finished, grate a bit of cheese into it for some flavor. When its ready to serve, grate a little more cheese on top of each serving.

Makes 6 servings

Oh, Canada...

The last few meals we've had have been good, but nothing to write home about (and in the case of this blog, that's to be taken quite literally).  But, when I used mushrooms last night, it reminded me of some pretty good pasta I had a few weeks ago to celebrate the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. I usually try to make food that reflects the culture of the host city/country.  I did a lot of research, found Nanaimo Bars (fantastic... see second recipe), and also kept reading about wild mushrooms. So, I made this!

Linguini with Mushroom Cream Sauce
Adapted from Food Network

1 pound whole-wheat or whole-grain linguini
1 1/2 pounds mixed mushrooms - shiitake, crimini, any that catch your eye at market
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, eyeball it
2 leeks
3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup cream
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Romano, for topping

Heat water to a boil for the pasta, salt water, drop in pasta and cook to al dente.

Wipe mushrooms clean with damp towel. Remove woody stems. Thinly slice the mushrooms.

Heat a large deep skillet with extra-virgin olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until deeply golden and tender, 10 minutes.

While mushrooms cook, halve the leeks lengthwise. Cut off a couple of inches from tough tops. Trim off root end. Thinly slice the leek then vigorously wash in a large bowl of cold water, separating all the layers to free of grit. Let leeks sit a few minutes then lift out of the water and dry on kitchen towel.

Add leeks to mushrooms along with garlic and season with salt, pepper and fresh thyme. Cook 3 to 4 minutes more then add wine, reduce half a minute then stir in cream and heat through. Toss pasta with mushrooms and adjust seasoning. Top with grated cheese at the table.

Serves 4

Nanaimo Bars
From The Joy of Baking

Bottom Layer
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa (I use Dutch-processed)
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup coconut (either sweetened or unsweetened)
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped (opt)

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 - 3 tablespoons milk or cream
2 tablespoons vanilla pudding powder
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar (confectioners or icing) sugar

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Butter (or use a cooking spray) a 9 x 9 inch (23 x 23 cm) pan.

BOTTOM LAYER: In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Stir in the sugar and cocoa powder and then gradually whisk in the beaten egg. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens (1 - 2 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract, graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and chopped nuts. Press the mixture evenly into the prepared pan. Cover and refrigerate until firm (about an hour).

FILLING: In your electric mixer cream the butter. Beat in the remaining ingredients. If the mixture is too thick to spread, add a little more milk. Spread the filling over the bottom layer, cover, and refrigerate until firm (about 30 minutes).

TOP LAYER: In a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter. Spread over the filling and refrigerate.

TO SERVE: To prevent the chocolate from cracking, using a sharp knife, bring the squares to room temperature before cutting.

Makes about 24 squares


From My New Favorite Book

If we've talked at all about books or food in the last few months, you'll already know that one of my favorite books is "A Homemade Life" by Molly Wizenberg (see the "Orangette" link on the left of the page). I've had this page ear-marked for some time now, and finally got around to making these!  A few notes... I increased the recipe by 25% to make use of two full cans of tuna, instead of having to leave half of a can unused. Also, I forgot the minced onions, but I think they'd make a nice contrast in texture. Even better, I might try sautéing them next time. We had these with a green salad and made for a deilicious supper that didn't make you feel stuffed afterwards!

Bouchons au Thon
Adapted from Orangette

2 cans canned tuna in water (preferably chunk light), drained
4 Tablespoons tomato paste
7 Tablespoons sour cream (or crème fraîche if you have it around!)
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cup finely grated gruyère cheese
1/3 cup minced onion

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit, and spray 10 wells of a muffin tin with cooking spray (unless, of course, you have a silicone muffin mold, in which case no greasing is necessary).

In a medium bowl, break up the tuna with a fork, smashing it to a rough paste. Add the tomato paste, sour cream, eggs, gruyère, a good pinch of salt, and onion, and mix well. The batter should be relatively smooth.

Spoon the batter evenly into 10 wells of the muffin tin, and bake for 20-25 minutes, until set and golden around the edges.

Serves 3-4 as a light meal with a green salad and crusty bread.