the whole is greater than the sum of its parts ::::
If you have not experienced the love of strata, you will find it here. How do I start? With the day-old bread? The tomato? The eggs?? To understand strata is to understand that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Day-old bread alone: unimpressive. A glass of milk: nice with cookies. Turkey sausage: depends. But together, they hold a new wonder. Revel in this assembly of ingredients whose value together is greater than the combined worth of the parts.
Better still? You make it the night before! I know! You scurry around the kitchen before bed, whisking and mixing, chopping and stirring. The day-old bread soaks up the egg mixture beautifully overnight. In the morning, you pad out of bed, rub those bleary eyes to put the strata in the oven, and set the timer. And go back to bed. Awaken not to the smell of coffee, but to the scents of oregano and feta, tomatoes and eggs.
This recipe not only works well for those of you who want to prepare well in advance for breakfast, but also for bread hoarders. I am one such person, much to Eat’s irritation (“Why is this bread in the freezer? It’s been here for months! What are you saving it for?” “Strata. Don’t worry. I’ll use it. Eventually….”) The leftover nubs of baguettes that dry out before you can finish a loaf, the half loaves that you store away in the freezer (then forget about for 4 months), and even the dried-out sandwich bread that isn’t good for anything except to further adulterate a piece of baloney all fit the criteria. Just think of it as a way to clean up your kitchen.
- 3¼ cups of milk (I used 2%. Skim tends to be a little too watery for this dish. I find the 2% works better; whole is probably fine, too.)
- 5 eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ cup cream cheese
- 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
- ¼ lb. good quality cheddar (I usually use a mildly flavored one since the feta is so salty)
- 4 to 5 oz turkey sausage (pre-cooked), cubed
- 1-2 green onions, chopped
- 1 small-medium chopped tomato
- scant 1 cup sliced, cooked zucchini or broccoli (I cooked zucchini with a little olive oil until tender with a little salt.)
- 1 16 oz loaf of bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (Day-old bread is better or you can toast the cubes in the oven briefly to dry them out a bit. You can use pre-sliced or buy an artisan loaf and cube it. I use both, depending on what leftovers I have.)
- pinch of cayenne (optional)
- Whisk eggs, milk, salt, pepper, oregano together. Add cayenne if using.
- In a separate bowl, combine the cheeses. Cube the cheddar (unless you want to grate) and the cream cheese into approximately 1 cm cubes. Add the feta.
- In another bowl, mix together sausage, tomato paste, zucchini, and green onions.
- Arrange half of the bread cubes in a lightly greased 9 x 13 inch pan (or use two 9 x 9 inch pans).
- Spoon half of the sausage/tomato/zucchini mixture and cheese mixture over the bread.
- Pour half of the milk/egg mixture over the layers.
- Repeat with the remaining bread and mixtures.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes. I covered with foil and baked for one hour. If you want a more crispy top crust, baking without foil and checking at 45 minutes would work.
- Let sit for 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy for brunch with a mimosa or a tall glass of orange juice.