“And spring arose on the garden fair, Like the spirit of love felt everywhere; And each flower and herb on earth’s dark breast Rose from dreams of it’s wintery rest.” Percy Bysshe Shelley
Spring is the beginning of a growing season filled with chartreuse greens dotting the landscape, flowers and trees blooming and the promise of warmer weather on the horizon. It feels as if the earth has awoken from a winter slumber and it’s ready to give new life to a new season.
With this new season brings new produce. I can’t seem to get enough asparagus these days – incorporating the spring green into almost all my spring meals. Along with the arugula and baby spinach that is exploding in my garden boxes, I’ve been cooking with an abundance of Bok choy, leeks, and spring onions, creating delicious dishes that excite and inspire.
One exciting dish that has been on my brain for at least the last two months is this Spring Vegetable Strata. I was thrilled when the first of the spring asparagus appeared at my co-op market; I could make my strata!
A Strata is much like a frittata or a quiche only it uses bread cubes or layers of bread slices to create a custard rich casserole like dish.
I’ve prepared strata both ways, layering a buttered baking dish with sliced white bread, vegetables and cheese with the egg and cream mixture poured over top and the second method of cubing the bread and gently tossing it with the vegetables cheese, egg and cream mixture and then pouring it into a buttered baking dish. If adding diced ham or cooked crumbled sausage to the mix, I whisk some dry mustard into the custard for a richer flavor that will stand up to the meat.
I like both methods, but for this Spring Vegetable Strata, I wanted to use my pretty square baking dish; so the cubed bread method worked best. If I were making this in my large rectangular baker I’d probably use the layered method.
I also wanted to use the gorgeous sourdough bread I found at our local bakery – so delicious and so perfect for cubing and tossing with vegetables and Gruyère cheese. It puffed up beautifully and the sourdough bread had the perfect texture to help create the lovely silky custard in the strata.
I’ve included sweet peas, leeks and asparagus in the strata, but you could use any vegetable you have on hand. On occasion I like to incorporate cooked spinach or Swiss chard to the mix; or kale if that’s your green of preference. No matter what you use, be sure to season well with fresh herbs, sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
Many strata recipes call for eggs with milk. I like to use eggs with heavy cream. It creates a more dense but creamy custard and feels luxurious. Depending on the type of bread I’m using or prep method, I’ll let my strata sit in the refrigerator for an hour before baking or overnight if I’ve used the layered method.
The Sourdough bread soaked up the custard immediately and I knew it wouldn’t need an overnight sit, so I let it sit in the refrigerator for about an hour. However, it’s perfectly acceptable to prepare the strata in the evening, let it rest in the refrigerator and then pop it in the oven first thing in the morning. It makes for a fuss free breakfast or brunch and keeps the kitchen tidy for guests.
Lush, fresh, a little decadent and perfect for spring, this gorgeous Spring Vegetable Strata will make everyone smile with food happiness. And, it’s wonderful for Mother’s Day celebrations.
- 1 large loaf of white bread or sourdough bread, 1 inch cubes (about 7-8 cups of cubed bread)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, finely diced
- 1 clove garlic, finely diced
- 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and chopped into bite sized pieces
- 1 cup sweet peas, thawed if using frozen
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme, crush between fingers when adding it to the veggies
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1½ cups shredded Gruyère cheese
- 6 large eggs
- 2 cups heavy cream
- Butter a baking dish. Either a deep 8x8 or a rectangular 9x11 or 9x13.
- Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the leeks. Sauté the leeks until they are somewhat golden and nicely soft and wilted. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute longer. Then add the asparagus, peas, Italian parsley, dried thyme, salt and pepper and crushed red pepper flakes if using. Cook for a minute or two and then take it off the heat.
- In a large bowl toss together the bread cubes, sautéed vegetables and 1 cup of the Gruyère cheese. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and heavy cream. Toss the bread cubes and vegetables with the eggs and cream and then pour it into your prepared baking dish. Top with the remaining ½ cup of shredded cheese.
- Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight.
- Remove the baking dish from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes prior to baking. Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Bake the strata for about 50-60 minutes. The strata should be a dark golden brown on top. Insert a knife into the center and if it comes out clean, the strata is done. If it doesn't, let it bake for another 10 minutes until the strata is completely cooked through.
- Let the strata sit for at least 10-15 minutes before serving. Serve with fresh fruit or a spring salad and mimosas.