Tag Archives: bread

Thanksgiving Cranberry Sauce Strata

We rounded up the usual suspects: turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, butternut squash soup, and slices of raspberry tart and pumpkin pie. While my family secured the perimeters outside, I pulled our car out front. I looked up and down the street one last time before pulling out of the driveway. You can never be too careful when transporting Thanksgiving leftovers home.

My vegetarian daughter startled us the next morning when she requested leftovers for breakfast. She’s had an anti-Thanksgiving stance the last few years because we haven’t made the journey back East to be with family. She also complains that there is nothing for her to eat. How about vegetables? I think her stance this year was softened by the amorous advances of a precious four-year old, who, after dinner, claimed her hand and protected her by delivering body blows to her annoying brother.

We gave our thanks for not having to cook dinner that night and worked our way through the leftovers. As usual, we couldn’t finish the cranberry sauce. The last survivor, it sat forlorn in its bowl, too good to waste and needing a new home, a new purpose in life. Muffins? Quick bread? Oh, is that challah I see before me? Come let me clutch thee! Oops! Wrong play.

I beat three eggs and added leftover challah (about 2 cups, cubed), ½ cup milk, the remaining cranberry sauce (½ cup) and let it soak in the refrigerator overnight. When I woke up, I preheated a 350° oven, warming the kitchen while we waited. A half hour later we had Thanksgiving cranberry sauce strata for breakfast. What will next year bring? The proof is in the pudding.

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Bread and Cabbage Soup: Soul-satisfying Simplicity.

There is elegance in simplicity. Chopping an onion. Smashing garlic against a cutting board. Ladling hot broth over a piece of bread.

At its most elemental, cooking soup is the art of wooing flavor out of a pot of water. If soup is an antidote against civilization and its discontents, then bread and cabbage soup is the plain truth. Uncomplicated and unpretentious, it uplifts and nourishes the soul, providing comfort against hard times and cold weather. It is a pas de deux between fire and water, onion and garlic, bread and cabbage. It is a celebration of simplicity.

Soup, however, can be a hard sell in our household. My vegetarian daughter wants nothing to do with vegetables, grains, or legumes floating in water. And my son’s idea of a vegetable is a potato or a carrot. My wife and I actively participate in willful acts of omission when asked what’s in a pureed soup. Does our son really need to know that we’re advancing civilization by camouflaging cauliflower or broccoli? My daughter’s wink lets us know that she, too, is a willful participant in our sleight of hand. It never hurts to have one of your kids on your side.

So, why did I think I could sell them on eating bread and cabbage soup? I didn’t. I planned on serving them pizza that was leftover from dinner the previous night. The soup was for my wife and I. Soup and salad. I had a head of cabbage in the refrigerator and leftover four-grain bread waiting for me on the cutting board. I turned on the oven to reheat the pizza and thought why waste an opportunity to roast garlic to squeeze on the bread. We were good to go.

I warmed slices of bread topped with garlic paste and grated mozzarella cheese. When the pizza was hot I called my kids to the dinner table. I thought I needed to have my hearing checked when my daughter asked if she could try my soup. And checked again when my son also requested a taste. “This is really good. Can I have a bowl?” my daughter asked. “Can I have one, too?” my son chimed in, seconding her motion.

Salad anyone?

Bread and Cabbage Soup

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

3-4 cloves garlic

½ head green cabbage, cored and coarsely chopped

1 yellow onion, chopped

6-7 cups of stock or water

bread (preferably leftover or day-old)

cheese (I used mozzarella, but any cheese will do)

salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally for 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Add the cabbage, cover, and cook until the cabbage has wilted. Add the stock or water (I used water and added left over tomato broth from canned tomatoes that I used for pizza sauce). Lower the heat and simmer about 10-15 minutes. Toast slices of bread and melt cheese on top of each slice. Place each slice in a soup bowl and ladle soup over.

I kept it very simple. If you want, you can also arrange layers of bread, cheese, cabbage and broth in a casserole and bake in a 350° oven until the cheese has melted and the crust is golden (about 15 minutes). Then ladle into soup bowls and serve.

Strata

When author F. Scott Fitzgerald famously stated that there were no second acts in American lives, he wasn’t referring to bread. Leftover bread sitting on the cutting board in our household often rises like a phoenix from the ashes. When my wife suggested that the crusty yeasted cornbread would be perfect for strata, a layered bread pudding, I thought it was a great idea. It freed us from the drudgery of thinking about “who would eat what” for dinner and it made room on the cutting board for the rosemary bread dough that was rising on the kitchen counter. Sometimes the solution to cooking for your kids is to throw tomato sauce at the problem. I thought that the sauce and cheese in the strata would conceal any alien or objectionable ingredients. I was also prepared if my son (can I have a smoothie, because I don’t want to eat what you put on my plate) and daughter (why can’t we just have pasta) joined forces and mounted an attack. If all else failed, I could counter-attack with a calzone left over from the dinner I made the night before—my ace-in-the-hole.

I adapted a recipe from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone as a springboard to jump off. I knew neither of my children would touch a mushroom, so I substituted some chard and threw in an ear of corn for good measure. Being an indecisive kinda guy and having plenty of cheese in the fridge, I chose to put Gorgonzola on one half and goat cheese on the other.

Strata

5 cloves of garlic

3 tablespoons of olive oil

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 ear of corn

1 bunch of chard

4 eggs

2 cups of milk

10 slices of bread (I didn’t remove the crusts)

½ cup grated mozzarella

¾ cup crumbled goat cheese or Gorgonzola

Lightly butter or oil a 9 x 12 baking dish.

Warm 1 tablespoon olive oil in skillet and add minced garlic. Add the tomatoes and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check to see if it needs to be seasoned with a little salt or pepper. Transfer to a dish. Heat the remaining olive oil before cooking chard and corn (or whatever you choose to add).

Beat the eggs and milk with ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste.

Spread tomato sauce in the baking dish. Cover with a layer of bread, followed by the vegetables and cheese. Add a second layer of bread and cover it with tomato sauce, followed by the vegetables, cheese, and additional sauce. Add a third layer of bread and cover with remaining sauce and cheese. Pour the custard over all. It can be baked right away or you can cover, refrigerate, and bake several hours later.

Pre-heat oven to 375° and bake until brown and puffed, about an hour. Let cool for five minutes before serving.

Strata

With its endless variations, strata is a dish that shouldn’t become stale. It might even become a staple in your household. My son, who keeps his distance from eggs, didn’t let his remark that it was too “eggy,” deter him from getting seconds. I thought it was “eggy” in a good, French toast kind of way. I heard my daughter telling my wife that it tasted like polenta. I am continually impressed by her ability to pick out some hidden or subtle ingredient or spice. I realized the next day that since I used polenta in the bread, of course it tasted like polenta.

For the third act, I ate the remaining strata for lunch.

Country Wheat Bread (No-Knead Method)

It’s early evening on a Sunday night. You just spent six hours driving back from Los Angeles. Everyone is hungry, dirty laundry that escaped from your bags is now camped out on the living room floor, and your son just revealed that he forgot to do his math homework and needs help. But you also want to run a quick errand to a friend’s house to pick up a package. Your wife says, “If you really have to go, please pick up some bread while you are out. We’ll need it for sandwiches for lunch tomorrow.”

Would you:

a) Begin stirring together flour, yeast, and water, knowing that thanks to a recipe from Baltimore baker Ned Atwater, with minimal investment of time and labor (no kneading required) you will be taking country wheat bread out of the oven before you go to bed?

b) Set the timer for the dough to rise, start making dinner, run out with your daughter to pick up the package, and let your wife, who is helping your son, continue making dinner?

c) Reluctantly accept the offer of a glass of wine from your friend, but graciously decline an invitation to join her family in dinner, even though you see your daughter’s eyeballs growing larger* as she stares at the bowl of pasta mocking her hunger, because you know your wife is laboring in your kitchen?

d) Gab with your friend’s new neighbors who have recently relocated from Ireland, despite being aware that your wife is probably starting to throw pots at the walls while she awaits your return, because it’s common knowledge that not even a saint can resist talking about Ireland?

e) Stare at the homemade apple pie that your friend has just taken out the oven, hoping  she won’t offer you a slice (not even with vanilla ice cream) because you really don’t want an excuse to stay longer?

g) Know that you’ve over-exaggerated your fame as a raconteur, realize that your dough is now probably over-rising and needs to be stirred again, and tell your daughter that it’s time to head home?

h) Stop at the bakery?

*I confess. I added this for dramatic effect. My vegetarian daughter had no problem resisting the pasta because it contained meat.

Here’s what I did:

Country Wheat Bread

And here’s what you can do:

Stare at your hands

Stare at them again

Find a wooden spoon

Now stare at your hands holding a wooden spoon

Good, that was the hard part

Now, the fun part

Atwater’s County Wheat Bread (Recipe from the Baltimore Sun)

Ingredients

3 Cups All-Purpose Flour

3 Cups Whole-Wheat Flour

1 Tablespoon Salt

1 Tablespoon Dry Yeast

3 Cups Room-Temperature Water

2 Tablespoons Honey

In a big bowl, stir dry ingredients together.

In a separate bowl, stir together water and honey. Add to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Dough will be sticky.

Cover the dough in the bowl and let it rest for an hour.

Wet your hands with water (or dust them with flour) and fold the dough seven times (I usually do it more). Re-cover and let it rest for another hour.

Uncover it and fold the dough again.  Re-cover and let it rest for an hour.

Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a loaf of your choice.

Pre-heat oven to 450° and bake for about 40 minutes. The crust should be a rich, dark-brown color.

If you want to know how good this bread tasted, I will tell you that my daughter rated it RGD even though half of the dough consisted of whole-wheat flour. It was almost good enough to make my wife forget that she was mad at me. I guess I’ll have to remember that the next time I go out for a “quick” errand.