When I go out to eat or see some dish on TV that I think looks tasty, I always try to get the recipe and then make the changes I think will improve it. Sometimes the results are not what I expect, but other times I feel very happy with the way things turn out. I think that is both the reward and danger of culinary experimentation.
One of the results I was very happy with was a strata I first ate at Panera Bread. They have three different kinds: four cheese, spinach and bacon and spinach and artichoke. I love the first two but do not care for artichoke version, so I looked online for some recipes and went to work on what I called Ben’s Strata. This is a perfect Sunday brunch, although it can be eaten as lunch or even dinner as well.
I first made this with the pastry dough I use for the empanadas I made for my baking business, but it can be replaced by French bread or just slices of white or wheat bread (even rye, if you prefer).
- 2 cups French bread cut in small cubes.
- Or 6 to 8 slices of white or wheat bread without the crust.
- Or a thin layer of pastry to cover a 9" x 13" glass baking-dish
- 1 cup Shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 Bell pepper (red or green) cubed
- ½ Onion
- 1 ½ cup Milk
- 6 - 8 Eggs
- 2 cups Lunchmeat (Ham, bacon or turkey, or all of them)
- Fresh parsley
- Black ground pepper
- Sautee onion in extra virgin olive oil.
- Add the bell pepper and let it soften.
- Add lunchmeat and let it cook with the vegetables
- In a bowl beat the eggs, cheese, milk, salt and ground pepper.
- When the lunchmeat is cooked add it to the ingredients in the bowl, hot ingredients to cool ingredients, and mix.
- For better results, refrigerate overnight.
- Preheat oven to 350° F
- Layer bread or pastry dough over greased glass baking-dish.
- Pour the content of the bowl
- Top with fresh parsley
- Cover the dish with foil and cook for about 30-35 minutes.
- Serve hot.
Delicious! And the best part is that there are many variations to this dish, so it’s never boring. You can substitute the bell peppers with broccoli or spinach, or use different types of cheeses. The possibilities are endless.