two brunch dishes courtesy of Martha

Since it has been so long since I’ve posted I thought I’d give you two recipes for the price of one.  Bargain!

Amongst other tasty delights for Easter brunch I made a spinach and fontina cheese strata.  I’d never made a strata before but it was so easy I’m not sure why it took me so long.  A strata is a cross between a bread pudding and a lasagna, in other words, cheesy carb-y deliciousness.

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I began by cooking down some spinach and onions in a little olive oil, slicing pieces of a slightly stale loaf of French bread, and grating cheese.  (Apologies for the poor quality of the photos.  I forgot my camera so used my phone.)

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Then, like you would do with a lasagna, you start to layer everything up.

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Then you mix up some milk and eggs and pour them over the whole shebang.

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One of the things that is great about this dish is that the milk and egg mixture needs to soak into the bread for at least eight hours which means you can assemble it the night before you serve it thereby making it a breeze the next morning when you want to serve it.  You just add a little more milk and egg mixture and bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.

Unfortunately I did not have a photo of the strata after it baked but I can assure you it was golden and bubbly and lovely and well-enjoyed by all.

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The second recipe I am sharing with you is a bit of a cheat as I shared a similar recipe with you previously.  But one can never have too many candied bacon recipes…

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This is even simpler than the strata.  You lay bacon strips over cooling racks placed in parchment-lined baking sheets and then sprinkle with brown sugar and freshly cracked black pepper and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes until crispy.  Voila!

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It was the first dish we ran out of at brunch!

Spinach-And-Fontina Strata (from www.marthastewart.com)

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt, divided
  • 2 pounds spinach, stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Unsalted butter, for dish
  • 1 pound challah loaf, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 8 ounces young Italian fontina cheese, grated, divided
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (1/3 cup), divided
  • 8 large eggs, divided
  • 2 2/3 cups whole milk, divided
Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes. Fill pan with as much spinach as will fit; cook, stirring, adding remainder a handful at a time as space allows. When all the spinach is wilted, stir in pepper and nutmeg. Drain spinach in a sieve. When cool enough to handle, squeeze excess moisture from spinach by hand.
Butter a 3-quart baking dish. Place a third of the bread in a single layer in dish. Top with half the spinach mixture and a third of the cheeses. Repeat layering with a third of the bread, remaining spinach mixture, and a third of the cheeses, then top with remaining bread.
Whisk together 6 eggs, 2 cups milk, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and carefully pour over bread. Cover with parchment, and gently press down with hands until egg mixture soaks through top of bread. Cover parchment with foil, and refrigerate at least 8 hours and up to 2 days.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, remove strata from refrigerator, uncover, and let stand 30 minutes. Whisk together remaining 2 eggs and 2/3 cup milk, and pour over strata, gently pressing between layers of bread with a spoon or spatula to ensure that egg mixture seeps to bottom. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses. Bake until puffed and golden brown in places, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes before serving.
Brown Sugar Glazed Bacon (from www.marthastewart.com)

  • 16 slices (about 1 pound) bacon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground pepper
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 10-by-15-inch rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper; place a wire rack on top of each sheet. Arrange bacon in a single layer on the two racks. Evenly sprinkle with pepper and sugar.Bake until bacon is crisp and browned, rotating sheets halfway through, 30 to 35 minutes. Pat dry with paper towels.

a meal Michelle Obama would approve of

I did a very bad thing last night.  For the first time in months I ate fast food.  I NEVER eat fast food but every now and again after a long week it just sounds good.  And even though yesterday was only Wednesday it had already been a long week and a few coworker/friends of mine and I decided that we needed to escape the office for a bit and indulge.  I’m feeling a little guilty (and tubby) this morning and decided to atone by posting on a very healthy meal I made over the weekend…

The healthy meal starts with lentils and you all know how I feel about lentils.  Delicious!

Then you add some carrots, garlic, and onions.  Sounds good so far!

While that was cooking I got started on a favorite side dish of mine that I learned from a friend who made it for a dinner she hosted years ago.  It involves spinach, raisins, pine nuts (I did not have any on-hand so substituted walnuts) and onions.  It’s tasty and healthy!

The combination is savory, sweet, salty, crunchy, and overall packed with things that are good for you.  I love it when things that are good for you actually taste good too!

Back to the lentil dish… it also involves pan-grilled salmon but this morning I realized that I did not get a photo of the actual salmon.  Oops.  The salmon is in the picture below but you can’t tell because I buried it with the cooked lentils and it turns out I was supposed to put the salmon on top of a bed of lentils.  I’m not running a restaurant here, people– it doesn’t always look pretty.  But it tasted pretty darn good and it almost makes me feel less bad about the chicken fingers, sweet potato fries, and custard/cookie dough concoction that I ate last night.  Almost.

Pan-Grilled Salmon Fillets with Lentils (adapted from recipe by Mark Bittman in “How to Cook Everything”)

Makes 2 servings

  • 1 cup green lentils, washed and picked over
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ¼-inch cubes
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ teaspoons mixed dry herbs (I used Herbs de Provence)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt
  • 2 center-cut salmon fillets, 6 to 8 ounces each, skin on (but scaled) or off, pin bones removed

Place lentils in a large, deep saucepan with water to cover.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, 15 to 20 minutes, then add the carrots, onion, garlic, and herbs.

Continue to cook, adding water if necessary (keep this to a minimum), until lentils and vegetables are tender, 30 to 40 minutes total.  Season with salt and pepper, add the olive oil, and keep warm.

Heat a large non-stick skillet (I don’t own non-stick cookware so I put a little olive oil on a non non-stick skillet to coat the pan) over high heat for about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle the bottom of the skillet with coarse salt, then add the salmon, skin side down.  Cook over high heat until well browned on the bottom, about 5 minutes.  Flip the salmon and cook 1 additional minute.  Place about 1 cup of lentils in the center of each of four serving plate and top with a salmon fillet (I mistakenly did the opposite.  It will be much more attractive if the salmon is on top!)

Spinach with Pine Nuts and Raisins (found at www.epicurious.com, original recipe by Joyce Goldstein in “Cucina Ebraica: Flavors of the Italian Jewish Kitchen”)

6 servings

  • 2 1/2 pounds spinach
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 small yellow onions or 6 green onions, minced
  • 4 tablespoons raisins, plumped in hot water and drained
  • 4 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted (I did not have pine nuts on hand so substituted walnuts, I have also used pecans in the past and they were good too)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Rinse the spinach well and remove the stems. Place in a large sauté pan with only the rinsing water clinging to the leaves. Cook over medium heat, turning as needed until wilted, just a few minutes. Drain well and set aside. Add the olive oil to the now-empty pan and place over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the spinach, raisins, and pine nuts and sauté briefly to warm through. Season with salt and pepper and serve warm or at room temperature.

simple summer salad

I figured it was high time I featured something green on the blog and with summer upon us and lots of picnics and barbecues ahead of us this here recipe is one you need to have in your arsenal.  People who don’t even like salads like this salad.  Small children who normally run away from vegetables and that neighbor of yours who eats a steady diet of fast food and not much else like this salad.  You get the point.

The ingredients are simple and few: spinach, strawberries, and dried cherries (or cranberries).  I like to add pecans or walnuts for a little crunch, but it is just as good without them.  And it’s even better with candied pecans or walnuts.  Trust me on this one.

A tangy and sweet poppy-seed dressing that is equally easy to make pairs nicely with it.

Bring this one to your next party– it can be thrown together in no time and is a total crowd pleaser, I promise.

Strawberry Spinach Salad

  • 8 oz bag of spinach, rinsed and dried
  • ½ cup strawberries, rinsed, stem caps removed and sliced
  • 1/3 cup dried cherries or cranberries
  • 1/3 cup pecans or walnuts, optional
  • Poppy seed dressing (see recipe below)

Place spinach in large salad bowl and top with strawberries, dried cherries or cranberries, and nuts.  Add desired amount of poppy-seed dressing (note that recipe yields enough for several salads) and toss to coat.

Poppy Seed Dressing

  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon poppy seeds

Whisk all ingredients together in small mixing bowl.  (Stores nicely in refrigerator for future use.)