Sunday, August 31, 2008

Savory tomato Brie bread pudding is seasonal delight

Goodbye to August. It was a good one, and while summer is on the wane, we look forward to still more days when we can enjoy New England weather.

And, okay, if you’ve been paying attention, you know that we featured this recipe back on June 4th. We finally tried it last week, making use of our garden tomato crop.

It’s a winner – fragrant with the aroma of fresh tomatoes, sweet onion, and celery, and accented by a gentle suggestion of Brie. This savory pudding is good served warm or at room temp; and it would make a wonderful brunch dish or light supper.

I made a few changes, which I’ve noted at the end of the recipe. I felt the soft bread would be too soggy, so I toasted the pieces in the oven until just crisp on the outside. And, making only half the recipe for our twosome, I used one egg and 1 egg substitute (Egg Beater). The pudding is colorful with reds and greens, which would make it a nice Christmas dish … but let’s not get ahead of ourselves …

(from Tomatoes, A Country Garden Cookbook, by Jesse Ziff Cool)

6 lightly packed cups of soft white bread
1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
2 pounds ripe tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
8 ounces Brie cheese, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 to 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock, homemade or canned

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Break bread into small pieces and place in large bowl. In medium saucepan, saute onions and celery in butter over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper. Pour sauteed mixture over bread and toss. Butter 2-quart baking dish. Spread layer of bread mixture on bottom. Cover with a layer of tomatoes and a third of the cheese. Continue layering, ending up with a layer of bread mixture on top. In small bowl, whisk together eggs and 1 cup chicken stock. Pour over dish. All bread should be lightly moistened. Add more stock if necessary. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Bake for approximately 35 minutes or until pudding is fluffy, firm and golden brown. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. This bread pudding is also great when served at room temperature. Serves 6.
(Hints from Portia: I made half the recipe and substituted an Egg Beater (1/4 cup) for 1 egg, along with a second real large egg. For the bread, I tore up some hamburg buns and toasted them for 5 minutes on a baking sheet at 350 degrees F. Baked it in an 8”-square Corningware dish sprayed with cooking spray. The layers are as follows: 1/3 bread, 1/2 tomatoes, 1/3 cheese, 1/3 bread, 1/2 tomatoes, 1/3 cheese, 1/3 bread, 1/3 cheese. I used a generous 1 cup vegetable stock combined with the eggs, which made just the right amount of moisture.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Brioche bread puddings are rich with berries of summer

Did I hear “bread pudding”? My ears are tuned to those lovely words, and even though I’m distracted by the post-breakfast cleanup chores, I detect the “sounds” of bread pudding coming from the Food Network show that I have on in the background.

Yes!! It’s Tyler Florence and he has created some beautiful bread puddings full of blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries, which he’s nestled in individual ramekins. The dishes can wait. I put aside my wash cloth and watch as Tyler whips up a topping of powdered sugar, lemon rind, and juice to top these little delicacies.

I like the Tyler Florence recipes because they’re something I’d try myself – not too fancy and with a homey touch. They’re easy to put together and good enough to impress company, or just the immediate company of your family for a comfy weeknight meal.

This particular recipe is from Tyler’s Ultimate, which on this particular episode featured a Chicken Paillard with Creamy Parmesan Salad for the main course. I watched as he took the individual puddings out of the oven, and drizzled them with the lemon fondant. Well, I’d just call it a glaze, but I guess if you’re a Food Network guy you have to come up with something that sounds more special.

(Recipe courtesy Tyler Florence 2008 from the Tyler’s Ultimate show, Ultimate Chickan Paillard episode)

Brioche Bread Pudding:
Butter, room temperature
4 eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup sugar, plus more for dusting and topping
4 large slices brioche bread
2 cups mixed berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries), plus more for garnish

Lemon Fondant:
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 lemons, zested and juiced

Butter and sugar 6 (6-ounce) ramekins. In medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, cream, vanilla extract, lemon zest and sugar. Combine well with whisk, then let it settle so there are no air bubbles on the surface otherwise they will cause lumps in your anglaise.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Tear brioche up into large pieces using your hands, add to the custard mixture and toss to combine. Equally divide berries among ramekins and top with bread mixture. Gently press down so they are packed evenly. Sprinkle with more sugar, then refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes to let soak.
Bake for 25 minutes in center of oven. The pudding is ready when it has puffed up and custard is set. The top should be a nice golden color. Remove and allow to cool slightly.
Make fondant. In mixing bowl combine sifted powdered sugar, water, lemon zest and juice.
Once pudding has cooled slightly, invert onto individual serving plate. Drizzle lemon fondant over warm bread pudding and serve with extra fresh berries.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Roasted tomatoes star in bread pudding

As we marvel at the skills of the Olympic athletes this week, we also make note of a different competition. That is, which will take the prize in the garden for sheer volume of produce? The ever-prolific zucchini? Or the crop of tomatoes, which are, of course, again managing their annual accomplishment of ripening all at once, so you can’t pick them fast enough or use them up before they turn to a mushier state than you desire.

So thank goodness for good friends such as Jean Donnelly of Carlisle, MA, who sent a recipe from the July 2008 issue of Gourmet. Simply called “Tomato Bread Pudding,” this dish is anything but simple, as it features roasted Roma tomato halves, garlic, and two fragrant cheeses, an Italian Fontina, and some Parmigiano-Regianno.

The author of the Gourmet article, Paul Grimes, stated that this “homey dish made everyone in the test kitchen swoon.” In addition to serving it as a side dish, he suggests the possibility of making it a vegetarian main dish along with a green salad.

Now, even though we don’t have plum tomatoes among our own tomato crop, we’re going to use our garden variety to try this one. We have the tomatoes lined up on the counter, all ready to go.


3 pounds plum tomatoes such as Roma, halved lengthwise
1 1/2 teaspoon herbes de Provence
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 head garlic, left whole
10 cups cubed (1-inch) country-style Italian bread (1 pound)
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
8 large eggs
2 cups coarsely grated chilled Italian Fontina (9 ounces)
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter 3-quart shallow baking dish (about 13 by 9 inches). Toss tomatoes in bowl with herbes de Provence, 1 tablespoon oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Arrange tomatoes, cut sides up, in a large heavy 4-sided sheet pan.
Cut off and discard 1/4 inch from top of garlic head to expose cloves, then put on a sheet of foil and drizzle with 1 teaspoon oil. Wrap garlic in foil and roast in pan with tomatoes until tomatoes are browned but still juicy and garlic is soft, 50 to 60 minutes. (Leave oven on.) Cool garlic to warm, then force through a medium-mesh sieve with a rubber spatula, discarding skins. Reserve purée.
While garlic cooks, toss bread cubes in large bowl with remaining oil until coated, then spread out in large 4-sided sheet pan and bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in pan. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.
Whisk together milk, cream, eggs, garlic purée, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir in cheeses. Transfer bread to baking dish, then pour egg mixture over bread and add tomatoes, pushing some down between bread cubes. Bake until firm to the touch and golden brown in spots, 50 to 60 minutes. Serves 8.
(Recipe and photo from Gourmet, July 2008.)
Cooks' note: Bread pudding is best the day it is made but can be made 1 day ahead and chilled (covered once cool). Reheat, covered with foil, in a 350°F oven.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Tomato bread puddings help use up the crop

The tomatoes are arriving in droves. Bright red ones hanging from the branches just waiting to be picked and enjoyed sliced fresh and topped with salt or a splash of Balsamic vinegar. Or to make into fresh pasta sauce accented with garlic, or in a tomato-cheese pie fragrant with basil leaves, also right from our garden.

And just in time for the influx of the big reds, we’re receiving recipes for tomato bread puddings, both in our e-mail and snail mail boxes. Our friend Kathy J from CA sent an e-mail asking, “Is this bread pudding?” She was referring to the recipe she forwarded, which does indeed include the necessary bread, but has no eggs or milk.

Why not? Our definition of bread pudding has broadened to include the summer puddings, which contain only layers of bread and macerated fruit. So we can certainly label this offering a bread pudding. It’s from Norma, a contributor to Taste of Home, who comments: “Every time I make this dish, someone asks for the recipe.” You can’t get much better than that. It’s lovely for an end-of-summer side dish.


8 medium tomatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
8 slices bread, crusts removed and cubed
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange tomatoes in greased 13x9-inch baking dish. Top with bread cubes. Combine butter, salt, basil, and thyme; drizzle over bread and tomatoes. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake, uncovered, in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until tomatoes are tender. Serves 8-10 as a side dish.
(Recipe from Taste of Home online.)

Friday, August 1, 2008

Mushroom bread pudding is all-day pleasure

Trying to beat the heat, we’ve been seeking out simple lunch or brunch dishes. Something to make up ahead in the morning to enjoy with a garden or fresh fruit salad. Today’s bread pudding is at the top of the list.

This recipe immediately caught my eye because, as I see it, there can never be too many mushrooms. Next to, or alongside, chocolate, they’re my favorite ingredient. There isn’t a mushroom I don’t like, either dried or fresh. In fact, I have wonderful memories of the beet borscht my mom used to make using packaged dried mushrooms. From the plain old garden-variety of button mushrooms at the market, to the more exotic shitakes, creminis, and cepes, I love to add them to fresh salad greens, sauces, and stir-fry dishes.

And also to bread pudding, especially when you have a savory dish such as today’s Mushroom Bread Pudding, which I found in Mollie Katzen’s Sunlight Café cookbook. Her chapter on puddings and custards, an inspiration in itself, includes such goodies as Honey or Maple Breakfast Flan, Sweet Potato Pudding, and Spinach-Feta Pudding. Oooooooh, I’m in pudding heaven. Post-its all over the place.

Katzen offers not only marvelous recipes in this book, but also some helpful tips, such as the following:
“You can give this pudding an even deeper flavor by adding up to 1/2 ounce of dried shitake, oyster, or porcini mushrooms to the sautéed mixture in step 4. Soak dried mushrooms in hot water about 30 minutes, then drain, stem, and chop, and they’re ready to use. Save flavorful soaking liquid for use in soup or sauce, if desired.”

Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Prep time: 40 minutes, plus 35 to 40 minutes to bake

Nonstick spray
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 cups chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1-1/4 teaspoons salt
6 to 8 cups sliced mushrooms (1-1/2 lbs.)
5 ounces fresh shitake mushrooms, chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 cup dry sherry
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cups bread cubes (1-1/2-inch pieces)
5 large eggs
2 cups milk
Sour cream, yogurt, or Crème Fraiche, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, F. (325 degrees for glass pan). Lightly spray 9x13-inch baking pan with nonstick spray. Place large skillet or sauté pan over medium heat, and add olive oil. When oil is hot, add onion, thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Saute over medium heat about 8 minutes, or until onion is soft. Add mushrooms and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt. Saute about 5 minutes, then cover and cook 10 minutes longer over medium heat. Stir in garlic, sherry, and lemon juice. Cook, stirring, for a few minutes longer, then remove from heat. Grind in black pepper to taste.
Distribute bread cubes evenly in prepared pan. Spread mushroom mixture on top of bread, being sure to include all of liquid.
Combine eggs and milk in blender or food processor, and process until smooth. Pour mixture over bread and mushrooms, and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Poke bread into liquid until all pieces are soaked. Bake in center of oven 35 to 40 minutes, or until custard is almost set. (It’s okay if it is still slightly wet on top, as it will continue to cook from its own heat for a few minutes after it comes out of the oven.)
Cool at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temp, with a dab of sour cream, yogurt, or Crème Fraiche on top of each serving.
(Recipe from Mollie Katzen’s Sunlight Café cookbook, © 2002)