Brunch Idea: Three Cheese Strata with Asparagus, Pepper & Ham

This colourful, layered dish is ideal for brunch or a light dinner, and can be assembled the day before, refrigerated, then baked an hour before serving.

8 cups 1-inch cubes sourdough or other dense bread

2 cups milk

1/4 cup olive oil

3/4 lb asparagus

3/4 lb Black Forest Ham or Smoked Turkey

1 red pepper

1 tbsp chopped fresh sage

1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

1/2 tsp fennel seed

5 large eggs

1-1/2 cups table cream (18% cream)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

6 oz fresh goat cheese, crumbled (about 1-1/2 cups)

1 cup grated Fontina or Swiss cheese

2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 3 L (13x9-inch) glass baking dish. Place bread in large bowl. Whisk together milk and olive oil; pour over bread cubes. Let stand about 10 minutes and liquid is absorbed.

Rinse asparagus well and break stalks at woody part; discard lower portion. Place asparagus in boiling water and cook over medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Drain and immediately cool under cold water; drain again and cut into bite-size pieces. Cut ham or turkey into 1/2-inch pieces. Core and seed red pepper; coarsely chop. Combine herbs in small bowl. In large bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, garlic, pepper and nutmeg. Stir in crumbled goat cheese.

The name Day-neutral strawberries comes from the fact that the plants initiate flower buds regardless of day length.

Cover bottom of greased pan with half the bread mixture. Top with half the asparagus, ham or turkey, red pepper, herbs and Fontina cheese. Pour half the cream mixture over. Repeat layering with remaining bread, asparagus, ham, red pepper, herbs and cheese. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top. Place Strata in preheated oven and bake uncovered about 1 hour and firm in centre with brown edges. Makes 8 servings.



Strawberry Vinaigrette: The food processor does the work! Combine 1/2 cup sliced strawberries, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon honey in bowl of food processor. Puree until smooth. Season to taste with fresh ground pepper and salt.

Strawberry Romanoff: An idea from the Ontario Goat Producers. Bring 1 (300 g) log Ontario goat cheese to room temperature. Use electric hand mixer to beat together goat cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup whipping cream and grated orange rind until smooth and fluffy. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. In a bowl, stir together sliced strawberries and a little sugar if desired. 

Salted Caramel Dipped Strawberries: a great change from chocolate dipped!  Add 1/4 teaspoon salt to 1/2 cup prepared caramel sauce. Dip large strawberries about halfway into the sauce and place on lightly greased wax paper. Let stand 15 minutes. Serve immediately or cover and chill up to 8 hours. Option: use purchased Dulce de leche sauce or make your own with sweetened condensed milk – it’s amazingly simple. Heat the oven to 425°F. Pour the contents of 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate and cover tightly with foil. Set plate in a roasting pan and carefully add enough hot water to reach halfway up the pie plate (you have created a water bath). Bake on a rack in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes. Check and add additional water if necessary then bake 45 minutes more or until milk is thick and brown. Remove pie plate and cool, uncovered. Makes about 1-1/4 cups sauce.

Strawberry Bruschetta: A great addition to a traditional bruschetta topping. Combine sliced strawberries, seeded and chopped tomato, chopped basil, minced shallot, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar and a little sugar if desired. Season to taste with fresh ground pepper and salt.