January 22, 2013

Mushroom Kale Strata - dairy-free, egg-free

I love food but I am far from being a foodie.  There is just so much I don't know out there.  Take a strata, for example.  My friend Vivian was preparing this for a camping trip last year.  (Talk about your foodies!!)  My only other reference to a strata was from Caffe Strada (not even the same word, I know) from my college days at Cal and I was absolutely sure Viv wasn't planning on serving one of these for breakfast.

The strata that Viv made was a savory bready casserole filled with sausage, beaten eggs and milk, and cheese.  I normally avoid all meat, dairy, and try my best to limit my eggs but I just had to try this dish because I was curious about what a strata is, it smelled terrific, and Viv is a fantastic cook.   The custardy bread was delicious and rich (I picked around the meat).  This definitely got me wondering if something like this existed in a dairy-free, egg-free form.

And, of course, it did!

Vegan strata recipes are all over the internet.  Internet, how I love thee!
My latest strata was drier on top but the bread below was more pudding-like.
I like the contrast!

I chose a few different recipes and tinkered with liquid proportions and add-ins.  In the end, the way I preferred my strata called for way more liquid in the custard than almost all other vegan strata recipes I saw.  Below is my recipe adapted from the great Terry Hope Romero and Isa Chandra Moskowitz, trailblazers in the modern vegan cooking world.  Seriously, if you have not checked out any of Isa's recipe books, you are missing out on true genius.  Whether you are vegan or not, everyone benefits from adding more plants in your life, and Isa's recipes can do this in a creative and surprisingly not-too-complicated way.
My first strata attempt was tasty but I didn't feel like the moisture
from the custard penetrated the bread cubes enough.  Back to the kitchen!

There are endless ways to make a strata.  Try this but definitely feel free to play with the veggies, spices, and other add-ins to your own liking.  The most important part for me was to make sure the custard consistency was not too thick or else the bread cubes wouldn't be soft and pudding-like after baking.

Mushroom Kale Strata - dairy-free; can be made wheat-free, nut-free, animal-free, but it will definitely contain soy.
Adapted from Terry Hope Romero and Isa Chandra Moskowitz's recipe in their cookbook Veganomicon.

1 Tbsp oil
1 cup red onion, sliced and further cut into thirds
5 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces of mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
Leaves of 5 stems of kale, torn into bite-sized pieces
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried sage
3 Tbsps sundried tomatoes, chopped
8 cups of crusty safe bread (some sort of baguette is ideal) cut into 1-inch cubes

For the custard:
14 oz package of firm tofu
1 1/2 cup of safe milk substitute (such as plain-flavored soy, almond, flax, or rice milks or full-fat canned coconut milk)
1Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsps nutritional yeast
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
Pepper to taste

  1. Heat oil in wok or large pan.  Saute onions until they begin to turn translucent.  Then add garlic and cook an additional few minutes.
  2. Add mushrooms to the pan and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Then add kale, salt, thyme, oregano, and sage.  Cook for an additional 2 minutes.  Then turn off stove.
  4. Add bread cubes and sundried tomatoes to the pan and toss with the sautéed vegetables so that ingredients are evenly dispersed.  Scoop this mixture into a 13"x9" rectangular plan or 11"x7" oblong Corningware dish.
  5. For the custard, combine all ingredients into a large bowl.  Use a hand mixer or immersion blender to blend thoroughly.
  6. Pour custard mixture over the bread cubes.  Gently mix to coat.
  7. Bake in preheated 350 degree over for about 50-60 minutes until strata appears dry and golden.

This is a good recipe for making ahead of time.  You could cube the bread ahead of time and prepare and refrigerate the custard for a day before you need to assemble it.  You might even try to leave the sliced mushrooms or kale raw before baking.  The next time I try this I may double the custard recipe to increase the pudding-like consistency.  I love me some pudding, savory or not!

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