Easter Treats Part 1: Strata

April 9, 2011 Entrees, Menu 3 Comments

Spring has sprung, which means it’s time for beautiful weather, baseball, flowers, and if you are Italian….sweet desserts and egg-tastic meals! In the past few years I have highlighted some of the most traditional Italian Easter dishes – hame pie (pizza rustica), rice pie and Easter bread. This year I’m highlighting two recipes that put an alternative spin on traditional dishes.

This week we’re making Strata, which is an egg-based breakfast meal. Similar to frittata, strata incorporates an egg batter with a choice of fillings including various meats, cheeses and vegetables. Unlike frittata, which is cooked in a deep-dish frying pan on the stove top, strata is baked in a 13×9 baking dish. There is also one additional key ingredient – a nice, crusty loaf of Italian bread, cut up into cubes. Assembly is quite simple. You do a layer of bread. then a layer of fillings, a second layer of bread, then finished up with the egg batter. Once baked, you end up with a hearty, delicious egg casserole that has the texture and consistency of bread pudding. The other beautiful thing about this dish is that you can prepare it up to 12 hours in advance. All you have to do when you wake up is pop it in the oven for an hour. It’s the perfect meal when you’re hosting a breakfast at your house. It leaves you plenty of time to sit, relax and share a cup of coffee with everyone else!

IT’S AN OMELETTE, RIGHT?
This is the question that I get asked constantly about frittata, ham pie and strata. In theory, yes they all can, and often do, share the same ingredients. But that’s where the story ends. An omelette is all about the egg. You simply top it with your choice of ingredients, then fold the egg so that everything is contained inside the fold. I love me a good omelette, but we have the rest of the year for that. This time of year is about incorporating the sweet and spicy meats and the rich and sharp cheeses into the egg batter to make it all one. … Continue Reading

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Swiss Chard and Beans with Seared Tuna

Like most kids, I was not a fan of veggies when I was young. Especially peas and broccoli. Actually, unless it was topped with cheese and sauce and ended with the letters “izza”, I really wanted nothing to do with it.

Today I’m still not a big fan of peas or broccoli (luckily my kids are, thanks to my wife), but my love for leafy greens has grown tremendously. Broccoli rabe/bitter broccoli is one of my favorite side dishes to make. Sauté with a little garlic and oil, and you’re good to go. I couldn’t think of a better sandwich topper! Escarole, of course, is the key ingredient to our holiday soup. I’ve also had some fun experimenting with escarole (you can check out my other escarole recipes here). Spinach is an often go-to as well, although I prefer to eat it as a fresh salad. The fresh-to-wilted ratio after it cooks is almost heart-breaking.

This week, I’m using another favorite green in a very traditional, old world dish. Swiss chard is a leafy green that is somewhat similar to spinach. It has a slightly bitter taste and can be used raw in salads. However, when cooked it loses its bitterness for a more refined, delicate taste than spinach. It’s also loaded with vitamins, fiber, minerals and protein.

For this recipe, I’m going to sauté chopped swiss chard in some olive oil, garlic and onions. I’m adding one 15 oz can of white kidney beans and some salt and pepper to taste, then topping it with slices of seared tuna and fresh lemon juice. The slight bitterness of the greens, mixed with the flavors of the garlic and onion, the tang of the lemon and the creamy texture of the cooked beans is amazing. The end result is a delicious, earthy, rustic side dish. Now, if you’re not a fan of tuna, grilled shrimp, steak or sausage will also work well. Or you can serve it without any additional topping as a side dish. … Continue Reading

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