If you are like me and love heirloom tomatoes, then the following is a must-have recipe. For some reason, summer refuses to fade into fall this year, and local farmer's markets and Trader Joe's still have a great supply of these seasonal favorites. I often end up with a stock pile of heirloom tomatoes and resort to baking them into a strata (the recipe is found in the Aug '06 Cuisine At Home magazine, but I found it online. It is also available in A Real American Breakfast cookbook).
Saturday Summer Strata, By Cheryl Atlers Jamison and Bill Jamison
One 1 to 1-1/4 pound loaf country or sourdough bread, crusts removed if thick
1/2 pound cream cheese, cut into small cubes or bits
1/2 pound fresh or other mozzarella, grated
1/4 cup prepared pest
o6 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
1 pound (about 3 medium) ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
5 large eggs
1-1/2 cups half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly milled black pepper to taste
Oil or butter a deep 9- to 10-inch baking dish (round glass dishes are best, to keep an eye on browning and so you can cut strata into wedges)
Slice the bread about 1/2 inch thick. Arrange 2 to 3 equal alternating layers of the bread, cheeses, pesto, prosciutto, and tomatoes in the baking dish. Cut or tear bread slices if needed to make snug layers. (Start with 1/2 of the cream cheese chunks dispersed evenly on the bread, then 1/2 the mozzarella, then dollops of evenly dispersed pesto, then 1/2 the prosciutto and tomatoes--I usually get two layers of each).
Whisk the eggs with the milk, salt, and pepper. Pour the custard over the bread mixture. Cover and refrigerate the strata for at least 2 hours and up to overnight. Remove the strata from the refrigerator 20 to 30 minutes before you plan to bake it.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the strata uncovered for 50 to 55 minutes, until puffed, golden brown, and lightly set in the center (when inserted knife comes out clean from center of strata). Serve hot.
The wealth of specialty breads available today encourages experimentation with stratas. Just pick a variety compatible with the cheese and any embellishments you are considering, removing the crust if it's thick. Egg-rich challah, brioche, and Italian panettone offer resonant alternatives. Cakey corn breads can turn to mush in a strata, but sturdier southern-style versions work well, particularly when toasted first to improve the texture. Even soft white bread makes a good strata, though we like to layer it with a darker whole grain bread to enhance the taste and appearance.
Eliminate the pesto and tomatoes. Sauté 1/2 pound sliced mushrooms, 1 or 2 minced garlic cloves, 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, and 3/4 pound fresh spinach, chard, or escarole in 3 tablespoons olive oil until the mushrooms are tender and any liquid has evaporated. Arrange alternating layers of the bread, cheeses, prosciutto, and mushroom mixture and proceed as directed.
Recipe courtesy of the Global Gormet