Sunday, February 27, 2011
Ham and Spinach Strata
I love brunch foods. I love breakfast foods. I could eat morning foods anytime of day. This is a dish that is especially versatile. A strata is a savory egg casserole using day old (read: stale) bread and this time, it's filled with Mediterranean style flavors--spinach, red bell peppers, feta cheese and diced ham to make it even more substantial. The lovely thing about a strata is that it's begging for you to use any fillings you have on hand (read: a great way to use up leftovers--see my note below for some suggestions). Simple, economical and able to be assembled ahead and popped into the oven whenever you're ready, this is an excellent dish to keep in mind for upcoming brunch-centered celebrations (read: Easter, Mother's Day, Baby Showers) and also lazy Saturday mornings.
Ham and Spinach Strata
6 cups cubed (or torn into bite sized pieces) bread: day old French bread is lovely, croissants are elegant, you can even use leftover hot dog buns if that's what needs to be used up--sometimes they do!
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 medium onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 red bell pepper, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1 12 oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups (1 8 oz package) shredded cheese (Italian blend is nice, feel free to experiment)
1/4 cup feta cheese (optional)
2 cups diced ham
1 cup milk or half and half
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
Directions: Lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish. Spread half of the bread cubes in the bottom of the dish. Set aside. In a large saute pan, melt butter over medium high heat. Add onion, and saute, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened (2-3 minutes). Add bell pepper and saute for 2-3 minutes longer or until bell pepper is crisp-tender. Stir in chopped spinach and season with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Spoon spinach mixture evenly over bottom layer of bread pieces. Sprinkle cheeses over spinach layer and cover with remaining bread cubes. In a large bowl, beat together eggs and milk. Stir in dry mustard and season egg mixture with additional salt and pepper. Pour over casserole. At this point, you can cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350. Bake uncovered until puffed and golden, about 45-55 minutes.
note: Experiment with different combinations depending on what you have on hand: Chopped broccoli and cheddar cheese, breakfast sausage and mushrooms, asparagus and Swiss cheese, green chiles, corn and pepper jack...the possibilities are endless.