Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Savory Bread Pudding

I had no ideas for dinner last night, none at all. I took a look at what was left in the crisper drawer and was not inspired at all. Luckily I happened to peruse one of my favorite Web sites, Serious Eats where I found my inspiration, a link to an article titled "What to do with Leftover Bread". Without even reading the article I had my inspiration.

Bread pudding is a versatile dish that can be made sweet or savory and with just about ant ingredients you like.

Here's what I used

10 or so slices of stale sourdough bread, cubed
1 zucchini, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1/2 leek, chopped

1 handful arugula, chopped
4ish ounces Parmesan cheese, divided

3 eggs

1 cup milk

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

2 Tablespoons pesto (not pictured because I added it at the last minute)

Once I chopped all my ingredients I tossed together my bread, zucchini, red bell pepper, leek, arugula and half of the Parmesan as well as some salt and pepper and a few red pepper flakes.

I put all this into an 8" x 8" dish that I had sprayed with cooking spray.

Next I combined my eggs, milk and ricotta cheese. While I was working I kept thinking that the dish could use some herbage. I thought about tarragon or thyme (because that is what I happened to have) but realized that what I really wanted was basil. So, I busted out a couple of cubes of my homemade pesto out of the freezer, thawed them in the microwave and added it to the egg mixture (along with a touch of salt and pepper). I then poured the egg mixture over the bread mixture.

The great thing about bread pudding is that it needs to sit for awhile (it's often better if it sits overnight) so if you want to make something for, say, breakfast, you can prep it the day ahead and then just pop it in the oven in the morning. However, since I decided to make this at about 2 p.m. I needed to speed up the bread/egg soaking process so I covered the pan with cling wrap and weighted it with my grill pan to make sure all the bread stayed submerged.

I popped this in the fridge for about 2 hours. When I started getting hungry, I heated up my oven to 350 degrees and I took the dish out of the fridge. Once the oven was warm I put my dish in, uncovered, to bake for an hour adding my remaining Parmesan at the 30 minute mark.

While the bread pudding cooked I threw together a little salad with a few things I had on hand. I combined a clementine, a few cherry tomatoes and a bit of fresh thyme and tossed them with a touch of olive oil and a splash of Spanish Golden Vinegar (apple cider vinegar that I infused with basil, thyme, chives, oregano, garlic and hot peppers).

The bread pudding came out nicely crisp on the top and was filling and delicious, especially on a cold, snowy night (by the way, it's March and I am done with snow, enough already). The pesto was a very welcome addition so I'm glad it occurred to me to add it to the dish. The Orange-Tomato Salad had a nice tang that contrasted well with the richness of the bread pudding. The husband also liked it very much, even helping himself to seconds (a surprising outcome knowing his feelings about both zucchini and arugula).

This is a dish that can be made in hundreds of different combinations with whatever veggies, cheeses and meats you happen to have on hand. If you come up with a great combination pass it along, I always like to have new ideas.

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