Sunday, October 19, 2008

Blog, don't you make a liar out of me!

Hmmm, it would seem that I have failed to make good on some promises around here. Every once in a while I like to read through the archives to see what I was eating and thinking and writing. And I found quite a few references and photos to recipes that I promised to post soon and never did. I'm going to work on follow through from now on.

It's really a shame, criminal almost, that I haven't posted this hot dish sooner, otherwise you could have had it for breakfast this morning. This is an old brunch standby and a crowd pleaser every time, whether the crowd is me or an actual crowd. It couldn't be easier to put together and, like so many things I cook, allows for a lot of creativity. It's a good way to use up odds and ends that may be languishing in the fridge. All sorts of herbs and veggies can be added to this savory eggy cheesy bread bake.

Now, the batch in the photo was extra special. I used about half a loaf of that famous No Knead bread that I had whipped up the day before. I left it out over night to let it get a wee bit stale, then tore it up. The contrast of the tender, airy crumb and the crisp, chewy crust were just heavenly when baked into this dish. Any old bread will do but I always try to use good, crusty artisan style bread just because I'm a snob.

Cooking time can really vary on this one. If it seems too wobbly and runny, stick it back in until it is set. Removing the foil at the end makes for a browned and bubbly crust.

Savory Egg and Cheese Bake adated from Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers by The Moosewood Collective

3 tablespoon butter
12 ounces crusty bread (or enough to fill the baking dish you're using)
1 cup grated cheese (something melty, I like cheddar, and 1 cup? Yeah right, more like 2)
1 cup chopped scallions (or onions, or shallots, or herbs, or...)
6 eggs
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 generous tablespoon Dijon mustard (this really makes it-please don't skip this, and please do use Dijon)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter in 2 quart baking dish, swirl to coat, and set aside. Cut or tear bread into one inch cubes and place in baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese and scallions.

Beat eggs in a bowl, then whisk in milk, salt, pepper, and mustard (you can blend this if you're picky). Pour custard over the bread and use a spatula to push bread down into custard. Bake covered with aluminum foil for 25 to 30 minutes (baking time depends on size and shape of the dish you're using). Remove foil and bake until golden, about 5 minutes more.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Cooking for Change

The Democrats called. They were hungry, so I made them some lasagne.

The other night I was sitting around with the family, about to have dinner, watching the news and lamenting the state of the world. Then Obama called. Well, not Obama himself, but his people here in Denver. They asked how we were feeling about Obama (we're in love! we said) and asked if we might like to get involved in the campaign. We said yes!

They need canvassers, people to make phone calls, places to live, and most importantly, they need to eat. We signed up as a family to make some phone calls before the vice presidential debate and I volunteered to make dinner for everyone in the campaign office. Cooking for change? Si se puede!

Now, of course, I couldn't just go out and buy any old dinner for these people. I wanted to make something because I love cooking, I had a full day to do it, and I knew they would appreciate a home cooked meal. Figuring there would be at least a few vegetarians in the bunch (these are Democrats, after all) I decided on Deborah Madison's Chard and Eggplant Lasagne.

The recipe doubled fairly well, although one pan ended up with one less layer than the other. There was a fair amount of prep work involved but it was easy stuff. On another day I probably would have made some quick homemade tomato sauce, but I used a jar of store bought sauce here.

All in all it was a fun and satisfying way to get involved in the campaign. I'm cooking lunch again next week and then the week after that. Hopefully all my hard work in the kitchen will put Obama in the White House.

Below is the original, undoubled version of the recipe.

Lasagne with Eggplant and Chard from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

1 box dried lasagna noodles
1 cup tomato sauce
1 1/2 pounds eggplant, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 bunch chard, stems removed
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup ricotta
1 egg
3/4 cup grated pecorino Romano (I used Parmesan)
8 oz mozzarella, shredded

Salt eggplant slices and land stand 30 minutes to draw out moisture, then blot dry.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush both sides of eggplant with olive oil. Bake slices on a sheet pan for 30 minutes, turning once, until browned on both sides. Chop and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil and butter in large skillet. Add onion and garlic and cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add chard, sprinkle with salt, and cook until wilted. Add wine, cover, and cook until chard is tender and pan is dry, about 10 minutes (mine took longer). Remove from heat and chop mixture finely. In a bowl mix together the ricotta, 1/2 cup water, and egg, then stir in the chard. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Grease a 9x12 baking dish. Spread 1/3 cup of the tomato sauce over the bottom and over with a layer of pasta. Spread a quarter of the cheeses, a quarter of the eggplant mixture, and a quarter of the ricotta mixture. Repeat until ingredients are used up.

Cover with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until heated through. Remove foil and bake for 5-10 minutes more.