Meatball & Roasted Summer Vegetable Strata

I make more food than I could ever possibly hope to ever sp’lever blog about.  Myriad coloured baubles and batches of cookies at 3 am to appease my own restless hands and fill the hours with something that feels like progress/artmaking/a chance to dip my finger into new sights and smells without leaving the kitchen.

I also find myself incapable of NOT cooking dinner for a house-guest if they happen to stay; it really supercedes any non-related ideas like relaxing or letting people fend for themselves.  In your honour I make you this thing , says I, in love.

And being in a budget mode, with a trans-pacific move coming up, I’m tickled to make something that can be cobbled together for a bit of change, say about 7$.

“Strata” – must be an Italian term for culinary glue, and so – Take summer vegetables (tomatoes, eggplants, zukes, garlicks, mushrooms and whatever else jumps in your market basket), and roast the daylights out of them, till dark and charred and sweet.  Add fresh rosemary, and salt and pepper, and (soy) milk, to a lot of stale and yet still beautiful and hearty sourdough bread that the BF brought home from the posh middle-eastern kitchen he works at.  Only the soft innards though – I’ll tell you what I do with the crusts once I figure that part out.

Whiz together 4 eggs with some extra milk and the roasted garlicks from the veggie roast, and pour it over the combined veg and softbread in an oiled pan, then SUDDENLY TOPPLE A BIG BOWL OF FRESHLY BRONZED HOMEMADE TINY MEATBALLS ONTOP, OHO! and then finish with cheese, any cheese.  I used swiss and romano.

A thing of beauty.  A triumph.  And shiss-bang, this is KILLER out the fridge, like a cold pizza sorta omelette sorta thanksgiving stuffing thing, but fluffier, studded through with umami-veg and comfy orbs of meat and so thoroughly rustically homemade.  You should try it, let me know how it goes.

Meatball & Roasted Summer Vegetable Strata

adapted, heavily, from Martha Rose Shulman’s Savory Bread Pudding with Swiss Chard and Red Pepper via the NYTimes.

Yield: 6 servings.

  • 4 ounces stale crustless sourdough bread
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced zucchini
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cut into 8ths.
  • 2 bell peppers, sliced into strips
  • 1 pound eggplant, sliced 1-inch thick
  • 200 grams button mushrooms, halved
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 ounces Gruyère or other Swiss cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
  • 1 ounce Parmesan, grated (1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 recipe Italian Meatballs, mini-sized – 1 inch or so- and cooked (optional)

1. Slice the bread about 3/4 inch thick.  Place the bread in a bowl and toss with 1 cup of the milk.  Set that aside and preheat your oven to 400 F.

2. Lay the eggplant slices in a large baking tray and salt them generously on both sides.  After 30 minutes, squeeze as much of the liquid out of them as you can.  Discard the liquid and add the zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, mushrooms and garlic, and toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and bit of salt and pepper.  Roast for 30-40 minutes, or until the vegetables are deeply browned and sweet.  Set aside.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 2-quart baking dish or a 10-inch ceramic tart pan. Pick out the garlic cloves from the vegetable pan and squish their soft innards into a mortar & pestle and mash that to a paste with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the rosemary, and a sprinkling of coarse salt.

4. Take the bread, and using a wooden spoon, a whisk or an immersion blender, mash or beat the soaked bread so that the mixture turns to mush. Add the cooked vegetables and the garlic paste to the bowl and mix together. Scrape into the oiled baking dish. Top with the mini-meatballs and the grated cheese. Break the eggs into the bowl and beat with the remaining milk, salt to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon), and freshly ground pepper.  Pour over the bread mixture and place in the oven.

5. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, until the mixture is puffed, golden brown on the top and set. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes or longer before serving.