Tag Archives: bread

Broccoli Raab & Pecorino Bread Pudding

Bread puddings are an ingenious vehicle for stray bits of vegetables and cheese, stale bread, even excess steamed milk from your morning cappuccino. I don’t think I’ve ever made a bread pudding I didn’t like. The key is to taste the custard before adding the bread to ensure it is properly seasoned (in fact, season it more than you think is necessary, as the bread is neutral and requires additional seasoning). The vegetables should also be seasoned properly, so taste, taste, taste!

I prefer my bread puddings firm rather than wobbly, so I add plenty of eggs to bind the mixture properly. I also like lots of vegetables, and usually opt for greens like spinach, arugula, or broccoli raab. The vegetables should be cooked before being folded into the custard base, so they become a silky part of the whole rather than a distinct component.

Serve the bread pudding below with a simple green salad as a main course, and experiment with other vegetables if you’re inspired at the market. Just be sure to pair the cheese with the vegetable: Gruyere is lovely with mushrooms; Parmigiano with spinach; Scamorza with fennel… You get the idea.

Makes 1 large bread pudding (serves 8 as an appetizer, 4 as a main course)

For the broccoli raab:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1 large bunch broccoli raab, tough stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped (about 1 pound prior to trimming)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup water

For the bread puddings:

  • extra-virgin olive oil for greasing the roasting pan
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
  • ¼ pound day-old white sliced bread, torn into 1/2-inch pieces
  • ¼ pound thickly sliced Pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch dice

rapini

Make the broccoli raab: Preheat the oven to 375° (preferably set on convection).

Place the olive oil, garlic, and chili in a 12-inch sauté pan. Warm gently over medium heat until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the broccoli raab, season with the salt, and sauté 5 minutes, or until wilted. Add the water and continue to cook until the water evaporates and the raab is soft, about 5 more minutes. Cool to room temperature and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Make the bread pudding: Brush an 8-inch square roasting pan with olive oil.

Beat the eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and ½ cup of the Pecorino in a large bowl with a whisk until aerated and some bubbles have formed in the mixture. The longer you beat, the lighter the bread pudding will be. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Add the bread and the sautéed raab. Mix gently with your hands so the bread soaks up some of the liquid, but do not overmix or the bread will disintegrate and lose its texture.

Spoon the mixture in the prepared roasting pan and dust with the remaining 2 tablespoons of Pecorino. Scatter the Pancetta over the top.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until set, golden-brown on top, and bubbling. Let rest 5 minutes, then cut into wedges and serve hot.

raab-bread-pudding-slice

Chive-Scented Bread Gnocchi in Sage Butter (Canederli)

These gnocchi are a specialty of Trentino-Alto Adige in Italy’s northeast, where they are called knodel in German or canederli  in Italian. They are usually rolled by hand (like gnocchi) and served floating in soup, but I prefer them pan-fried until golden brown in sage butter. I like my canederli quite soft, so I make the mixture too sticky to roll out on a counter, and use 2 spoons to drop it into simmering water instead.

Canederli should be made with a close-textured, dense, unflavored, stale bread: if the bread is light and airy, or if it is too fresh, it will absorb too much liquid and therefore call for too much flour, resulting in leaden dumplings.  You can use rye bread or whole wheat bread if you like.

I serve canederli as a main course, with an assortment of roasted vegetables, cured meats like Speck (a smoked Prosciutto from Trentino-Alto Adige), and savory cheeses like Asiago or Piave. You can also serve them alongside meat and poultry, where they’ll pick up the sauce; or drop them in a bowl of chicken soup as a soothing starter.

Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as an appetizer or side dish

  • ¼ pound crustless day-old white country bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 cup snipped chives
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 2 tablespoons plus ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½  cup whole milk
  • ¼ cup to ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra if needed
  • 2 tablespoons  unsalted butter
  • 12 sage leaves, thinly sliced

canederliingredients_DSC3770

Place the bread in a large bowl. Add the chives, caraway, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and the pepper. Stir a bit to mix, then add the eggs and mash vigorously with your hands until the bread breaks down. Add the milk and mash again; the point is to create a dense paste with the ingredients at this stage.

canederliingredientsinbowl_DSC3773

Add the flour and mash again with your hands; the mixture should hold together and form a gluey paste; add more flour by the tablespoon if it does not. The mixture should be sticky at this point; if it is not sticky, it will form heavy canederli once cooked. Depending on how stale and dry your bread is, the mixture will require different amounts of flour: drier, staler bread requires less flour. If not cooking right away, cover and set aside for up to 2 hours at room temperature.

Before cooking all the canederli, I suggest testing their texture so you can adjust with additional flour if needed.

When you are ready to serve, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of the salt. Using 2 spoons, drop 1 tablespoon of the batter into the boiling water, and cook until it bobs to the surface. The canederli is not fully cooked at this point, but you can gauge its texture; if it has fallen apart and disintegrated into the water, the batter requires additional flour to hold it together, so add a bit of flour and mix again to incorporate, then test the batter again.  It is fine if a few small bits do come away, but the test canederli should remain mostly whole.

Return the water to a gentle boil. Drop the batter  by the tablespoon into the water, forming about 20 tablespoon-sized dumplings. They will look misshapen and lumpy, and some small bits may float off and break away, but that is fine.  Maintain the heat so the water is just simmering, not vigorously boiling, or the canederli may disintegrate. Cook 8 minutes, uncovered.

canederlidropinwater_DSC3787

canederliinwater_DSC3789

Remove with a slotted spoon to a tray.  You can do this up to 4 hours ahead and hold at room temperature on an oiled tray, covered with plastic wrap.

Melt the butter with the sage over medium-high heat in a nonstick 12-inch skillet. Add the canederli and sauté 5 to 8 minutes, or until golden all over, turning to cook evenly. Sprinkle with the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt and serve hot.

canederliinpanlater_DSC3793

canederliwithspeckplated_DS3802

Escarole and Sausage over Crispy Bread with Melted Cheese

This is a delicious, one-dish meal that my husband and I crave when the weather is cold and our energy is dragging.  Try broccoli raab instead of escarole, or simply omit the sausage for a vegetarian version. But whatever you do, buy really good bread, because the bread’s texture and taste unify all the ingredients into a beguiling whole. We buy flat Turkish bread from the Taskin bakery in New Jersey when we don’t have our own leftover focaccia.

A word on Kashkaval: this is a semi-soft sheep’s milk cheese typical of Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey. I grew up enjoying it thanks to my Romanian-born mother. It is available in most well-stocked cheese shops, and ranges from milky and just  a tad sharp when aged a few months, to salty and almost crumbly when aged longer. For this dish, select the younger Kashkaval, as it will melt better and won’t overwhelm the other flavors. If Kashkaval is not available, use a good quality imported Fontina from Val d’Aosta, or another mild melting cheese of your liking.

Serves 2

For the sausage and escarole:

  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1  teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1/2 pound  spicy Italian sausages with fennel seeds, casings removed and crumbled
  • 1 pound (1 large bunch) escarole leaves, washed thoroughly and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the bread:

  • 4 cups cubed Italian focaccia or other neutral flatbread
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 pound fresh Mozzarella (preferably bufala), drained and torn into bite-size pieces
  • 2 ounces young Kashkaval or Fontina from Val d’Aosta, rind removed if needed and coarsely grated

sausage-escarole-ingredient

Make the sausage and escarole: Place the olive oil, fennel seeds, garlic, and chili  in a wide pan that has a tight-fitting lid. Warm gently over medium heat until aromatic, about 1 minute.

Add the crumbled sausage and cook 10 minutes,  stirring often, or until the sausage is nicely browned all over. Add the escarole, season with the salt and pepper, and cover.

sausage-escarole-pot

Cook 10 minutes, stirring once in a while, or until the escarole softens and collapses and releases its liquid; the liquid is essential to this dish, so keep the lid on. Remove from the heat until you are ready to serve.

sausage-escarole-top

Make the bread: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (preferably set on convection). On a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper, toss the cubed bread with the olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Toast in the preheated oven for 5 minutes, or until the bread just begins to take on a golden color and starts to get a bit crunchy here and there; do not toast it all the way through, or the dish will be dry,  as the bread has to bake a second time with the cheese.

sausage-escarole-bread

Scatter the Mozzarella and Kashkaval on top of the toasted bread.

sausage-escarole-cheese

Return to the oven for about 5 minutes, or until the bread finishes toasting and browning, and the cheeses melt.

To serve: Reheat the sausage and escarole. Spoon one-quarter of the hot bread and cheese mixture onto each of 2 plates. Top each with one-quarter of the hot escarole and sausage mixture, then another layer of the bread and cheese mixture, and finally the remaining escarole and sausage mixture. Pour any pan juices from the escarole and sausage over the finished plates and serve hot.