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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Into the STRATA-sphere

So, here's the setting.

It's the night before Easter. Holy Saturday, if you will, and I have no one who is willing to let me cook for them the following day. It was one of those rare weekends where I spent no time with anyone except Matt and then was going to Matt's Mom's house for brunch.

And I never cook brunch...

And I wanted the opportunity to try...

So I decided I would cook for the church luncheon following Easter service...even though no one asked me to and no one even knew I was doing this.

I was so excited when I finally decided to do this because, seriously, I love brunch, but never EVER cook anything of the brunch-like nature. I generally tend towards eating brunch out on the town, so this opportunity was huge.

Unfortunately, the brunch-esque dishes I found myself looking at were less than inspiring. Scrambles? Eh. Pancakes? Not a fan of sweet brunch food.

But then I saw a strata recipe in Veganomicon.

Now, I won't go so far as to say I decided on this recipe because I had a flashback to the scene in "The Family Stone" where Sarah Jessica Parker's character gets her strata spilled all over herself...

Ok, yes I will. That's the only reason I decided to make this.

I had no idea what strata was. told me the following: A strata is a casserole made of layers of bread (usually dipped in milk or eggs to soften,) cheese, and vegetables.

This should be know, no eggs or cheese or milk.

So, return to the original scene. There I am, deciding at the last minute to make this dish that I frankly have no idea what it is, and then scurrying to the grocery store.

There just was far too much pressure. What from the last minute-ness and the illustrating my cooking skills to a whole group of people, it just was a recipe for disaster.

So I messed up, ALOT.

Here's what went terribly horribly wrong:
-I couldn't find cremini mushrooms so I think I just used button shrooms.
-Did not have enough spinach
-Did not have enough tofu, and the tofu I had was firm, and was not I'm not sure what the custard mixture was supposed to look like.
-Did not have lemon juice, so I think I substituted white vinegar
-I used spicy brown mustard that was quite pungent and definitely took over the flavors in the dish. I would half the amount if I used spicy brown mustard again, but mostly I would just advise using yellow mustard.

I almost started crying as this whole thing was baking. And it came out looking a little strange. So I had to try the corner to see if it tasted terrible or not. Hence the following picture:

Interestingly enough, this was a HIT at church! I almost didn't bring it, but people (specifically the vegetarians and the vegans around me) were RAVING!

Only goes to show you that even when you royally screw up a recipe, good things can come from it.

So, here it is, "Mushroom Spinach Strata" from Veganomicon.


6 slices stale or lightly toasted French bread, cut into 2-inch pieces
1½ cups thinly sliced shallots (5 or 6 shallots)
3 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced thinly (about 3½ cups)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon salt
10 ounces well-washed chopped spinach (about 8 cups)

For the custard:

1 pound soft tofu
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard
1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ cup vegetable broth or water
¼ teaspoon salt (if using water or sodium-free broth)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 9 x 13 baking pan with oil or a non-stick spray.

Saute the shallots in 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet for about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute for 7 more minutes, until the mushrooms are tender.

Meanwhile, make the custard: place all the custard ingredients in a blender or food processor, crumbling the tofu as you add it. Puree until completely smooth and set aside until ready to use.

To the pan with the mushrooms and shallots, add the garlic, herbs, pepper, and salt. Saute for another minute, then add a handful of spinach. Let the spinach wilt, then continue adding by handfuls until all the spinach is in the pan and wilted.

Turn off the heat, move the vegetables to the side, and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Toss in the bread pieces and mix to distribute.

To assemble the strata, transfer the bread and vegetable mixture into the baking dish. Pour the tofu custard over everything, and use a spatula to press the custard into the vegetables. You want to get as much custard as you can into the vegetable mixture without actually stirring things up.

Place in the oven for 55 to 60 minutes. Remove, allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then slice and serve.


  1. I just made an artichoke & chevre strata last night (obviously not vegan)...maybe I'll have to try this one, too!

  2. Hello Frndz....
    Thanks for your blog. I just landed up in your blog and I really appreciate your blog. It is full of resourceful information.

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