Sunday, March 11, 2012

Spinach and Cheese Strata


     Spring is here! I'm finding myself a little stunned, to be honest, that it's actually time for the trees to be budding and daffodils to be showing their bright faces. I adore, adore spring, but it typically follows a chillier, snugglier winter than we've had this year. No complaints here, but I'm still trying to settle into the fact that winter, in fact, has come and gone. I'm also recalling the way my mood seems to transform as the sunlight lingers and flowers appear and green predominates. I found myself literally grinning and humming during a jog the other afternoon as opposed to my more typical groans and huffs and glances at my watch. Spring is nicer for so many things. I'm happy it's here. 
     A dear friend of mine is getting married in April. Kathryn and I went to nursing school together and then moved into a sweet, creaky old duplex in a darling neighborhood in town. We wrestled freezing nights in that drafty old place, a rat in the bathroom (I totally conquered it, I might add), fruit fly infestations, sketchy very long-haired male neighbors, and the list goes on. We had fun. And now I have the wonderful opportunity to celebrate her engagement! I decided to throw her an intimate bridal shower over this past weekend with a couple other girls from school. We all met at my place on a breaktakingly blue-skied morning for cinnamon roll muffins, coffee, yogurt and granola, and a sinful strata dish I'm so eager to share. Let's hop to it. 
      I was looking for a good strata recipe, knowing that it would be an ideal choice for a brunch as it requires assembly the night before so that your only obligation in the morning is to pop it in the oven. I came across this jewel on Annie's Eats and we all loved it from bite one. Originally from Gourmet, then adapted by Smitten Kitchen, there really is no going wrong. I would change nothing. The spinach was a fabulous healthy addition, the cheeses a heavenly blend of nutty flavor, the bread crumbs perfectly toasted on top. I had to send the girls home with containers full or I would undoubtedly have eaten the rest of the dish myself (i.e., it is so good and so not low-fat). It's impeccable. 



borrowed from annie's-eats.com 
serves a crowd

ingredients:
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/3 cups onion, finely chopped
2 (10 ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided
a dash of nutmeg
8 cups cubed Italian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
6 ounces coarsely grated Gruyere cheese (~2 cups)
2 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 2/3 cup)
9 eggs
2 3/4 cup milk



directions:
1. Melt butter in medium saucepan on medium heat. Add onions and cook for about 5 minutes, or until soft. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and nutmeg, and cook for another minute.
2. Stir in drained spinach and remove from heat. 
3. Butter inside of 3-quart baking dish. Line bottom with one third of the bread cubes, then top with one third of spinach mix, and then one third of cheeses. Repeat this layering twice more…bread, spinach, cheese.
4. In medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Pour this mix evenly over bread/spinach/cheese mix. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, up to a day. 
5. Let dish sit out of refrigerator for 30 minutes before baking. Preheat oven to 350F. Bake dish, uncovered, for 45-55 minutes, or until cooked through and golden brown on top. Let cool for a few minutes before serving. Great warm and at room temperature. 



here we are! such sweet company.

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