Buttery Breakfast Casserole

June 7th, 2016

Breakfast Casserole 1

I have cobbled together a picture of a breakfast casserole that I served to company.  My life has been rather cobbled together lately.  From selling our Florida house, to pulling a u-haul back to North Carolina, to a major get together with friends, the one thing I did not need was to get sick.  But sick I was.  I developed a hacking cough, headache, fever and laryngitis. David dragged me to the Doctor last Wednesday.  All I could croak out were the words “I can’t afford to be sick.  I have 16 people coming tomorrow for 4 or 5 days.” I am so impressed with our Nurse Practitioner.  She prescribed an antibiotic and words of wisdom.  She said be sure your friends have clean sheets and towels, but forget about the rest of the house.  No one will notice or care about a bit of dust or a less that neat house.  So true.  Everyone pitched in and we had a wonderful time.

Malt Shoppe Memories Beach

The occasion that brought us all together was the annual Lake Lure Lakefront Home Owners Association annual dinner and meeting.  David and I were in charge of the entertainment.  We booked our good friends from Florida who have a doo wop group called Malt Shoppe Memories.  They perform all over Florida and are also known in our area from previous visits.

Malt Shoppe Memories Dancing

The concert was held on the beach and a fun time was had by all.

Malt Shoppe Memories S'moresThe hotel even arranged to serve S’mores on the beach.

Malt Shoppe Memories Boathouse

 

The party was held on Saturday night.  On Sunday evening the group performed on the top of our boathouse and people were encouraged to come by boat to sit back and enjoy the concert.  The acoustics on the water and between the mountains are something special.

Malt Shoppe Memories Kitchen

It was great to have so much help in the kitchen.  We did a pot luck on Sunday and everyone contributed wonderful dishes.

Breakfast Casserole 2V

I made this casserole on Saturday afternoon when I was feeling better. I tucked it into the refrigerator and baked it on Sunday morning.  It couldn’t be easier.  What you see here are the leftovers. It is a special breakfast casserole because it uses croissants instead of bread (thus the buttery description) and because it comes from The New York Times.  All of their recipes are first rate.  I will be adding this to my permanent recipe file.  The sausage, Gruyere cheese, sage and green onions just add to the goodness.

BUTTERY BREAKFAST CASSEROLE

  • 1 pound croissants (about 5 to 7), split in half lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, more for baking dish
  • 1 bunch scallions (6 to 7), white and light green parts thinly sliced, greens reserved
  • ¾ pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage
  • 8 large eggs
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces Gruyère, grated (2 cups)
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

 

PREPARATION

  1. Heat oven to 500 degrees. Spread croissants on a large baking sheet and toast, cut side up, until golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes (watch carefully to see that they do not burn). Let cool, then tear into large bite-size pieces.
  2. In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add sliced scallions and sausage meat; cook, breaking up meat with a fork, until mixture is well browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in sage, and remove from heat.
  3. In a large bowl, toss together croissants and sausage mixture. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, cream, 1 1/2 cups cheese, salt and pepper.
  4. Lightly oil a 9- x 13-inch baking dish. Turn croissant mixture into pan, spreading it out evenly over the bottom. Pour custard into pan, pressing croissants down gently to help absorb the liquid. Cover pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
  5. When you’re ready to bake the casserole, heat oven to 350 degrees. Scatter the remaining grated cheese over the top of the casserole. Transfer to oven and bake until casserole is golden brown and firm to the touch, 45 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes. Garnish with sliced scallion tops before serving.

Printable Recipe

Leek and Gruyere Bread Pudding

March 1st, 2016

Leek and Gruyere Bread Pudding 1

The inspiration for this leek and Gruyere bread pudding came from a side dish that I had in a restaurant in Washington DC last month.  It was served with roasted chicken and a light gravy.  One of the recipe sources that I use quite often is Epicurious.  Both my Daughter-In-Law and I think highly of the recipes found on this source.  It doesn’t hurt that the recipe came first from Thomas Keller.  It was outstanding.

You should use a brioche or challah bread.  The eggy bread adds richness to the casserole.  I adapted the recipe.  I used the same amount of leeks and cheese, but halved the rest of the recipe.

Leek Bread Pudding 2

At the restaurant the bread pudding was served as an individual cake.  So I experimented with cutting rounds out of the finished casserole with a biscuit cutter.  It worked very well and we enjoyed the scraps for another meal.  As an aside, we have not been eating much bread lately, but we made a happy exception for this delightful dish.

LEEK AND GRUYERE BREAD PUDDING (Adapted from Epicurious)

Recipe shown as written.  I used the same amount of leeks and cheese and halved everything else.

INGREDIENTS

    • 2 cups 1/2-inch-thick slices leeks (white and light green parts only)
    • Kosher salt
    • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • 12 cups 1-inch cubes crustless Brioche or Pullman sandwich loaf
    • 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
    • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
    • 3 large eggs
    • 3 cups whole milk
    • 3 cups heavy cream
    • Freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1 cup shredded Gruyere Cheese

PREPARATION

    1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
    2. Put the leek rounds in a large bowl of tepid water and swish so that any dirt falls to the bottom of the bowl. Set a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat, lift the leeks from the water, drain, and add them to the pan. Season with salt and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. As the leeks begin to soften, lower the heat to medium-low. The leeks will release liquid. Stir in the butter to emulsify, and season with pepper to taste. Cover the pan with a parchment lid, and cook, stirring every 10 minutes, until the leeks are very soft, 30 to 35 minutes. If at any point the butter breaks or looks oily, stir in about a tablespoon of water to re-emulsify the sauce. Remove and discard the parchment lid.
    3. Meanwhile, spread the bread cubes on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 20 minutes, rotating the pan about halfway through, until dry and pale gold. Transfer to a large bowl. Leave the oven on.
    4. Add the leeks to the bread and toss well, then add the chives and thyme.
    5. Lightly whisk the eggs in another large bowl. Whisk in the milk, cream, a generous pinch of salt, pepper to taste, and a pinch of nutmeg.
    6. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the cheese in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Spread half the leeks and croutons in the pan and sprinkle with another 1/4 cup cheese. Scatter the remaining leeks and croutons over and top with another 1/4 cup cheese. Pour in enough of the custard mixture to cover the bread and press gently on the bread so it soaks in the milk. Let soak for about 15 minutes.
    7. Add the remaining custard, allowing some of the soaked cubes of bread to protrude. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup cheese on top and sprinkle with salt.
    8. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until the pudding feels set and the top is brown and bubbling.

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Honey-Pumpkin Cornbread and Warming Soup

November 3rd, 2015

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Taking a break from detailing our Italy trip, I wanted to share with you a tasty combination that I made on a recent cold and blustery day.  With thoughts of Thanksgiving in my mind, the idea of a cornbread with the addition of pumpkin sounded like a good combination. As it turned out, it was a good idea; moist, golden and lightly sweetened with honey.  The soup that I made with it came from one of my favorite blogs, Manger.  It is a combination of French lentils, farro and lots of vegetables.

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The feeling I am trying to express in this post is that of warmth and comfort.  The food is the starting point, of course.  But I would like to give you a few more visuals to explain how I am feeling. Perhaps, because I am still dealing with the aftermath of surgery, I need to concentrate on what makes me happy and secure.

Tuscan Villa 1

This Tuscan kitchen made me happy.  There were logs in the fireplace ready for an evening fire on a cool night. ( Wide angle lens tends to make people appear wider).  The gas stove was a dream to cook on and I could have spent an entire vacation in this charming villa.  I wanted to forego the motorcycle touring and just hang out here.

Tuscan Villa 2 View

This was the view from the window.  The church bell rang on the hour all day and all night.  Who needs a watch?

Dream room

This picture is small.  I saw it on Pinterest.  Although it is not necessarily my style these days, it is just like the house that I have seen in my dreams.  I don’t know about you, but I dream about houses.  In my dreams I always have this other house that I have neglected, but that I am very proud of.  I encourage my dream guests to make themselves at home, even though it is cluttered and dusty.  And I wonder to myself in my dream why I do not live there.  It is cozy and comfortable but a little bizarre.  This room lacks that bizarre element, but it is close to my vision.

I am on the mend.  Stitches taken out today.  Life is returning to normal and I am back in the kitchen.  If you are in the mood for some comfort food you will love this cornbread and Mimi’s Soup.

HONEY-PUMPKIN CORNBREAD

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Lightly butter a 9-inch square-baking pan.
  2. Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Whisk together the pumpkin puree, eggs, butter, honey, buttermilk and orange zest in a separate bowl. Stir the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture until moistened; transfer to the prepared baking pan.
  3. Bake until the cornbread pulls away from the sides of the pans and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20-22 minutes. Cool in the pan 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and cook on a wire rack at least 10 minutes before cutting.

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The Cinque Terre or The Italian Riviera

October 11th, 2015

Cinque Terre 1

The Cinque Terre region of Italy is not usually on people’s top 10 list of places to visit.  It is a string of five centuries old villages on the rugged coast of the Mediterranean Sea.  The colorful houses and ancient terraced vineyards provide awe inspiring vistas. Fishing boats bob in the harbor.  Historically, fishing was the livelihood of the residents of this region.  The colorful houses originated because fishermen out in the water liked to look back and spot their own dwellings by their distinctive colors.

Cinque Terre 2

The roads into the villages are winding and scenic.  This is a perfect drive on a motorcycle or in a convertible, although the roads do not always go directly into the villages.  There are parking areas outside of each village.  Walking trails bring you into the hub of towns.  The whole area is connected to the country by way of railroads and a ferry system.

Cinque Terre

The local people have cultivated the terraced mountainous terrain for centuries.  The main crops are grapes and olives.  But the region is also the birthplace of pesto.  Basil, which thrives in the temperate Ligurian climate is mixed with Parmigiano and/or Pecorino, garlic, olive oil and pine nuts to make the pungent and delicious emulsion.  Served on spaghetti or bruschetta, it is popular the world over.

Cinque Terre Tulin and Me

Tulin and I sat at a bistro overlooking the sea, perusing the limited menu.  One of the best things on the menu was a tomato and basil topped large toasted bruschetta.  Unfortunately I did not get a picture of it.  It was delicious and I am attempting to duplicate it here.

Cinque Terre T and P

The views from the village of Manarola were breathtaking.

Cinque Terre 4

We were in Manarola on Monday.  It was wash day.  What was so charming about these small villages is the lack of pretension.  Real people live here, going about their daily lives.  It is so different from the posh French Riviera.

Cinque Terre village scene

It is the time of year to harvest what is left of the basil plants here at home.  My basil has become leggy and much too tall.

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With thoughts of the lunch that I had in Manarola in the Cinque Terre, I made pesto and a bruschetta similar to what I had experienced there.  It made a delicious lunch here at home.

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Here are some general recipes and instructions.

BASIL PESTO FROM LIGURIA (The Four Seasons of Pasta)

Makes 1 1/2 to 2 cups
2 packed cup0s whole, tender young basil leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or more to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano, plus more to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino sardo or pecorino toscano
2 plump garlic cloves, crushed and minced

Working delicately, rinse and thoroughly dry the basil leaves and set aside.  In the bowl of the food processor, combine the rinsed and dried basil, the pine nuts, and salt.  Pulse until the mixture is coarse and grainy.  With the motor running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream.  Add the parmigiano and pecorino, processing just enough to mix well.  If the sauce is too dry, add a little more oil; if it’s too liquid, stir in a little more cheese and/or pine nuts.  Finally, add the garlic and process briefly, just to mix.  Taste and add more cheese or salt, if desired.

BRUSCHETTA WITH TOMATOES AND BASIL

Brush sliced Italian bread with olive oil.  Bake until lightly browned.  Smear the tops with basil pesto.  Pile on diced tomatoes, more dollops of pesto, grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese and sliced fresh basil leaves.

Printable Recipe

Thanks to Laurent of Ride in Tours for several of the photos

Garlic and Rosemary Baguettes

August 18th, 2015

Garlic Rosemary Baguette 1

I can live without chocolate, but I can’t live without bread.  It is one of the great joys of a meal as far as I’m concerned.  Now, because of changes in our food choices, I am trying to experiment with different types of flour in my bread baking.  These garlic and rosemary baguettes are excellent.  King Arthur has a white whole wheat flour that I wanted to try.  It is milled from hard white Spring wheat – a lighter colored grain than traditional red wheat which yields milder-tasting baked goods.  Because this bread recipe also has an abundance of garlic and rosemary in it, the lighter but healthy white whole wheat flour is a bonus.

Garlic Rosemary Baguette 2v

But what I was most excited about, and inspired me to make this bread, was the free printable French bread wrappers that I found on Heather Bullard/ Lifestyle blog.  She is a contributing editor to Country Living Magazine and found the script sheets while traveling in France.  A big thank you to her for making them available.  They make a pretty presentation if you bake  loaves to give to friends and family.

Garlic Rosemary Baguette 3

The original bread recipe came from a blog called Good Life Eats.  I changed the flours, but kept the garlic and rosemary.  This is a very garlic heavy bread, so if you are not a great fan, you can reduce the number of cloves.  It makes a convincing looking baguette but tastes more like a conventional homemade bread.Garlic Rosemary Baguette 4

The rustic loaves make great sandwiches and are a great accompaniment to spaghetti.
GARLIC AND ROSEMARY BAGUETTES

2 cups warm tap water, about 110 degrees
1/4 cup olive oil
2 1/2 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
2 3/4 – 3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup fresh rosemary, chopped
4 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup flour for dusting the loaves
Cornmeal for the pans
2 small cookie sheets or a large (at least 11×17-inch) jelly roll pan

In the bowl of a food mixer, mix the water with the yeast.  Allow to ferment for about 10 minutes.  Once the yeast is bubbly add the olive oil, 2 1/2 cups of the all-purpose flour, the white whole wheat flour, garlic, rosemary and salt.  With a dough hook gently mix until all of the ingredients are combined.  Mix on medium for about 5 minutes to knead the ingredients together.  If dough is too moist add a little more of the all-purpose flour.

Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead gently.  Shape into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl.  Leave to rise for 2 hours.

To shape loaves, scrape risen dough onto a lightly floured surface and press it to deflate it. Divide dough in half and shape one piece at a time. Press dough into a square, then roll it up tightly. Rotate cylinder of dough 90 degrees and roll up again from short end. Arrange dough seam side down, cover with plastic or a towel and let it rest of 5 minutes. Repeat with remaining piece of dough.

Dust pan with cornmeal. Roll each piece of dough under palms of your hands to elongate it. Work from middle of loaf outward, pointing the ends slightly. Place loaves seam side down on cookie sheets and dust each loaf heavily with flour, using about 1/4 cup in all. Cover with plastic or a towel and allow to rise until doubled.

About 30 minutes before you intend to bake the loaves, preheat oven to 500 degrees F and set racks at the middle and lowest levels. Set a pan on the lowest rack to absorb some of the excess bottom heat and keep the bottom of the loaves from burning.

Holding a razor blade or the point of a very sharp knife at a 30-degree angle to the top of each loaf, make 3 to 4 diagonal slashes in each loaf. Immediately place loaves in oven and lower temperature to 450 degrees F. After loaves have baked for 20 minutes and are completely risen, lower temperature to 350 degrees F and continue baking about 20 to 30 minutes longer, until bread reaches an internal temperature of about 210-220 degrees F. Remove loaves from oven and cool on a rack.

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© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.