Sunday, April 18, 2010

Strata + Frittata = Strattata

When I was a teenager, they had this wine commercial that showed a bunch of 30-something yuppies on a cottage getaway, "disconnecting" from the craziness of urban life. One woman even threw her cell phone in the lake to demonstrate her commitment to cutting loose as her friends looked at each other with incredulous admiration.
Untethered by technology and the demands of being Important People, they probably ate BBQ on the deck of their rented lodge and discussed the merits of gentrification or perhaps weighed in on the 'Filipino nanny vs. European Au pair' debate. And thus with this group of upwardly mobile friends, we were ushered into their Zinfandel Years, with the belief that this could well be us.

I bought into this ideal; not the yuppiness or the waste of a perfectly good cellphone that, frankly, you may need in case you run into a bear. No, I bought into the idea that in my early 30's, I'd have some things figured out. I'd have a well-paying job and a home and maybe a couple of kids. I'd be okay with all my character flaws, accepting of my body, educated and well-rounded. I wouldn't be contemplating minimum wage jobs again, or the soundness of incurring further student loan debt instead of being crippled by my incomplete college diploma. Zinfandel Years? These are more like my Wonder Years - I'm still waiting to come of age, and beginning to suspect that it may never happen.

Being unemployed right now, I have a lot of time to mull these things over...

How fitting then, to make an uncertain meal for such uncertain times. I had no idea how it would turn out. I loosely followed the principles of the frittata and the strata, reckoning the only real difference is perhaps the inclusion of torn up bread. I used whatever ingredients I had on hand; some leftover scallions, swiss chard, mushrooms and chicken sausage, as well as a hunk of old bread that had gone pretty stale.

There were some mishaps, like using a springform pan which then leaked into Demonic Oven and replaced the lovely baking smell with a burnt, charring smell that smoked up the kitchen and made my eyes water. And the chicken sausages I used were so goddamn salty, I probably would opt for a lower-sodium option, or would leave them out altogether next time. But overall, this ended up as another check on my Awesome list, and was even delightful the next day. And the day after that, eaten cold (is that gross?)

As for the big life questions, well, they likely won't be answered soon. But that's okay. In my teens, I never figured I'd marry my high school sweetheart. Nor did I reckon I'd ever think I was pretty enough or clever enough, which I do now, and if I'm not exactly accomplished, well at least I'm capable, which is actually just as good. If I could have foreseen who I'd become in my thirties, what would happen to my mother, or how grace and family could arise from the ashes of that crying shame, I wouldn't have believed it. I wouldn't have believed we'd get through it. So okay, maybe I'm not where I thought I would be at the tender age of 32.

But I'm starting to think I'm headed somewhere even better.

Monika's Recipe for Strattata: (I am using approximations as I didn't really measure anything)

1 tbsp Olive oil
A large splash of dry white wine
3 scallions/green onions, sliced once lengthwise, then finely chopped
2 pinches of dried oregano, rubbed between fingers when adding to pan
2 pinches of dried basil, rubbed between fingers when adding to pan
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (adjust amount to your liking)

a package of white or cremini mushrooms, sliced (1 lb? I'm not sure)
Half a bunch of Swiss Chard, washed, dried and cut into bite size pieces
2 chicken sausages (optional; could use regular sausage or cooked chicken pieces or leave out)
2 tbsp cream cheese or goat cheese, softened
1-1 1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
lots of fresh ground pepper
5 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4-1/2 loaf of stale bread, torn into medium sized pieces


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook the sausages in a pan over medium heat; once cooked through, cut into smallish pieces.

2. Get a medium/large sized round pan or casserole dish and grease it; set aside. Heat the oil and white wine in a large skillet and add the green onions, red pepper flakes, oregano and basil, stirring constantly till softened and fragrant, about 3-5 minutes. Careful that you don't burn the onions. Then add the mushrooms and swiss chard and cook down till soft and the extra moisture has cooked off. Add the cooked sausages and a hearty dose of fresh ground pepper and set aside.

3. In the microwave, heat the cream cheese or goat cheese till well softened. Put it in a large bowl and add the buttermilk, stirring well to incorporate them into each other (there will still be lumps, don't worry.) Add the lightly beaten eggs and the Parmesan cheese and mix well by hand till sort of a loose custard.

4. In the greased pan/dish, put the bread pieces in the bottom. Pour in the cooked veggies and sausage mixture, spreading evenly over the bread. Then pour over the egg mixture and put it in the oven, baking for about 30-35 minutes, or until set. Put it under the broiler for a minute or two to brown the top. Let it cool for 5 minutes, then slice and eat!

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