This recipe has a lot of ingredients in it, and I wasn’t sure how well they would all go together. Cheddar and parmesan and spinach and red peppers and marinated artichokes don’t seem like natural compliments. But I wanted to make a strata, and I had some spinach and scallions and cheddar to use up.
Typing up the recipe now, it really doesn’t seem like a lot of work, but it certainly seemed so at the time. Stratas are supposed to be convenient because you can make them the night before and just pop them in the oven in the morning. However, I’m rarely in the mood to make breakfast the night before. On the weekends, I’ve usually just made an ambitious dinner and probably dessert, and the last thing I want to do after enjoying that is go back into the kitchen and make breakfast.
I made a third of the recipe in a loaf pan, since it was just for me and Dave. I used fresh spinach, sautéed for a few seconds in the same pan the red peppers had just been removed from. I had the spinach leftover from something else, and I’m not generally a huge fan of frozen spinach anyway – too stemmy. I used Country Crust bread, which is my favorite recipe anytime white sandwich-type bread is called for.
The strata exceeded my expectations. All of the flavors meshed quite well. I had also been concerned that it wouldn’t be rich enough, since my other favorite strata recipe uses half and half instead of milk, but the texture of this one was great. It’s a fairly healthy, and very tasty, take on a breakfast strata.
Spinach, Artichoke, and Red Pepper Strata (from Vegetarian Classics, by Jeanne Lemlin)
JL notes: Choose a firm homemade-style bread such as sourdough, a Tuscan-style chewy bread, or a day-old loaf of Italian or French bread. Avoid very soft packaged bread. Make sure the strata is cooked enough when you remove it from the oven. Test it like a cake. A knife inserted in the center should come out clean.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large red bell pepper, cut into thin strips 2 inches long
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
9 large eggs
3½ cups milk
½ cup (1 ounce) grated Parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
generous seasoning freshly ground black pepper
2½ tablespoon butter, softened
9 slices firm white bread
2 (6-ounce) jars marinated artichoke hearts, well drained
2 scallions, very thinly sliced
3 cups (12 ounces) grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1. Heat the oil in a medium-size skillet over medium heat and sauté the red pepper until tender, about 7 minutes. Set aside.
2. Place the thawed spinach in a strainer and press out all of its liquid with the back of a large spoon. Set aside.
3. Thoroughly beat the eggs in a large bowl. Beat in the spinach, milk, Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
4. Using ½ tablespoon butter, grease a 13x9x2-inch baking dish. With the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, coat 1 side of each slice of bread. Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes. You should have about 9 cups of cubed bread.
5. Place half the bread cubes in the baking dish. Sprinkle on half of the red peppers strips, 1 jar of artichokes, and half of the scallions. Ladle on half of the spinach mixture, then sprinkle on half of the cheddar cheese. Repeat this layering and end with the cheddar cheese. Cover the dish with place wrap or foil and refrigerate overnight.
6. Remove the dish from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before baking. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the strata, uncovered, for 1 hour, or until golden brown on top and firm in the center. Let the strata sit 15 minutes before cutting it into squares.