Thursday, March 25, 2010

Spring Celebration Brunch

There are so many events celebrated in the spring and I think the easiest way to gather family and friends-for the cook- is to host a brunch. Most of the food can be prepared a day ahead and baked the morning of the party.

Graduations, wedding showers, and Mother's Day are only three possibilities. I serve a main dish, usually a strata such as the Mediterranean Strata below, muffins and or sweet rolls and a fruit platter or a fruit plate.

Don't forget Easter is next week. A perfect time for a spring brunch. Add colorful tulips to the table and bring some spring sunshine inside.

Mediterranean Strata

This hearty brunch casserole brimming with sunny flavors from the south of France is always a hit. Because it can be refrigerated overnight, it can be in the oven as the guests arrive.


6 English muffins, split and cubed
12 ounces drained, cooked Italian sausage
1 (14-ounce) can extra-small artichokes, drained and quartered
1/2 cup chopped roasted red pepper
1/4 cup Kalamata olives or ripe olives, pitted and sliced
1 1/2 cups shredded Provolone cheese
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
3 cups whole milk
8 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons basil pesto
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

Lightly spray 13 x 9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
Arrange muffin cubes in bottom of baking dish. Crumble sausage over muffins and top with artichokes, red pepper, olives, Provolone cheese, and feta cheese.
Beat milk, eggs, pesto, and salt until blended in large bowl and pour over other ingredients. Using a spoon, press ingredients down into the liquid. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Heat oven to 350°F with oven rack in middle. Uncover the casserole.
Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until set and a knife inserted near center comes out clean although it will be wet.
Letting the dish sit for 5 to 10 minutes before cutting makes it easier to serve. Cover and refrigerate any remaining.

BAKER’S NOTE: You can let the dish stand at room temperature about 1/2 hour until the milk is absorbed if you don’t want to make it the day before serving.
SECRETS TO SUCCESS: I like the texture of English muffins, but cubed French bread or other chewy bread creates variety.
Unless you make your own pesto with fresh basil from the garden, purchase it already prepared. You can also purchase roasted red peppers in a jar.

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