Saturday, December 19, 2009

Holiday Breakfast

Morton Family Strata & Broiled Grapefruit

On Christmas mornings my father always made my great grandmothers recipe for baked eggs. This baked strata is my homage to that family tradition, while still allowing me a quiet holiday morning. I think it is great that it cooks, unattended, leaving one for present opening or coffee chats with family. And really, with a big meal looming later in the day, the last thing I want to be doing on a holiday morning is frying eggs.

I really enjoy stealing ideas from movies, hence the strata recipe below. One of my favorite holiday films is "The Family Stone". In the film, this strata plays a minor, but memorable role.

The recipe comes from the website I have tweaked the recipe in that the original, inexplicably, calls for canned tomatoes and sliced white onions. I have replaced these with julienned roma tomatoes and a scant handful of chopped scallions. My husband is requesting that next time I make this, it include some sausage or ham. This also seems like a good idea.

Morton Family Strata
(recipe says serves 8, but I think 6 would be more accurate)

8 slices white bread
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, sliced
3 roma tomatoes (halved, scoop the seeds out, then sliced into strips)
13 ounces sliced mushrooms, drained (or sauteed fresh in 1 tablespoon butter)
3 scallions, chopped
5 eggs
3 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon oregano
1 pinch garlic salt
parmesan cheese

1) Using a cookie cutter, cut bread into shapes or circles. Set aside.

2) Place bread scraps in bottom of buttered 13" by 9" baking dish. Layer half of the mozzarella cheese over bread. (If it helps, think of building the strata like building the layers of a lasagna. Then, at the end, an egg custard is poured over all the layers, to soak overnight.)

3) Arrange half of the tomatoes and all of the onions and mushrooms over the mozzarella cheese. Cover with the rest of the mozzarella cheese.

4) Arrange the bread shapes on the cheese. Arrange the tomato strips on the bread shapes.

5) Combine slightly beaten eggs, milk, salt, oregano and garlic salt. Pour over the bread.

6) Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Cover. Refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.

7) Bake 1-1/2 hours in a 325 degree F oven, or until knife comes out clean. Let stand for 5 minutes or until firm.Growing up, my mother would sometimes make us broiled grapefruit for breakfast. I think it is a nice accompaniment to the strata. It is quite possibly the most gorgeous breakfast and is at once cozy and elegant. I love that in the midst of winter, with leafless trees and gray skies, there is the cheery pinkness of this grapefruit. What follows is less of a recipe and more of an idea, but one that I hope you'll indulge and try yourself.

Broiled grapefruit

3 pink grapefruits (or enough for each person to get their own half)
light brown sugar

1) Turn on the oven broiler.

2) Cut the pink grapefruits in half. Take a moment to run a small knife around the segments. The idea is to precut the segments so that after they have been heavenly crusted with brown sugar, they can be easily scooped out with a spoon. This small time investment is completely worth it.

3) Top each grapefruit half with about 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. If it does not look like enough, by all means, add more.

4) Place the grapefruit halves on a rimmed baking sheet and broil until the sugar is melted and somewhat caramelized.

5) Please take a moment to admire it's color (and let it cool ever so slightly) then enjoy.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

butternut squash soup

My husbands family adores butternut squash. I do not know if I can honestly say I had ever even had butternut squash before I spent my first Thanksgiving with them. But there it was, this gorgeous, golden orange mash, right alongside the potatoes on the Thanksgiving buffet. I am so grateful that this flavor is now part of my Thanksgiving canon. It is sweet and earthy and so ridiculously good for you.
I have also discovered that I love butternut squash soup. And really, after a few days of Thanksgiving leftover indulgence (pumpkin pie for breakfast, turkey melt sandwiches for lunch) I find a light soup like this butternut squash quite welcome. It is comforting but not cloying. The recipe is from Giada De Laurentiis. Her recipe calls for a fontina crostini. I like it as is with a bit of cheese (sharp English cheddar) and crackers (pepper poppyseed water crackers are the current addiction) on the side.

Butternut Squash Soup

2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 3/4-inch pieces (about 7 to 8 cups) (peeling a butternut squash is the least fun job ever- please be careful)
6 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1) In an 8-quart stockpot, add the butter and oil and melt together over medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes.

2) Stir in the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds.

3) Add the squash and the chicken stock. Bring the mixture to a boil and add the sage. Continue to boil until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

4) Turn off the heat. Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture until smooth and thick. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Keep the soup warm over low heat. (A small note: While this recipe utilizes an immersion blender, I think a food mill or regular blender would work just fine. I do have to say that I treasure my immersion blender and give it all my gold stars for ease of use.)