Breakfast Chez Nous: Bagel, Tomato and Cream Cheese Casserole

The Husband and I hosted the beaux-parents (that’s the in-laws, but in French it sounds less contractual and more like a relationship that was entered into lovingly) this weekend for a few days of eating, drinking, and Hoyas hoops watching.

We also exchanged Christmas gifts, and Hubs and I received Jawbone bracelets to track our movement – but that’s another story, since it doesn’t go too well with the theme of eating and drinking.  (There’s a larger metaphor to ponder.)

To get us (back) into the Christmas spirit, I had planned on making what the Husband’s family normally enjoys on Christmas morning – a bread/egg casserole.  And then I thought about trying to recreate a decades-plus tradition, and thought again.  Instead, I took a look at the long-suffering bagels in our freezer, my new Smitten Kitchen cookbook, and got to work recreating Deb Perelman’s New York Breakfast Casserole (with a few minor tweaks, obvi).

assembly: the most tedious part
assembly: the most tedious part

Bagel, Tomato, and Cream Cheese Breakfast Casserole

  • 3 large bagels, cut into cubes (bonus if they’re sesame, everything, or onion)
  • 1 bar chilled cream cheese, cut into small bits
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 and 1/3 cups milk or half & half
  • a good handful each of salt, pepper, crushed reds
  • optional: bacon, cooked and cut into small, crispy bits, capers for serving
puffed & golden brown
puffed & golden brown
  1. Prepare the casserole the night before you want to eat this.  Spread about a third of the bagel cubs in a 9×13 baking dish and place a small bit of cream cheese on the bagel cubes.  Mix in about a third of the onion and tomatoes.  Repeat again, adding more bagels, cream cheese, onion and tomatoes.  If adding bacon, do so now.
  2. Whisk eggs with the milk, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper.  Pour the mixture evenly over the bagels/onions/tomatoes.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  3. The next morning: preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bake the casserole, uncovered, for about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes, until it has puffed, turned golden brown and cooked all the way through.  Let it rest a few minutes before serving.
  4. Serve with a grind of salt and black pepper, maybe some sriracha, and a side of fruit salad, to even it all out and make your Jawbone happy.  Note: this feeds 6-8 people comfortably.  If you have leftovers, it reheats beautifully over low heat in your oven or toaster.
fruit + cream cheese and bagels = net good-for-you, right?
fruit + cream cheese and bagels = net good-for-you, right?

The Verdict:

There was universal agreement around the breakfast table that this was really good – but would have benefited from the addition of bacon.  I loved the creamy puffiness of the cheese bits, combined with the sweetness of the roasted tomatoes.  The bagels, nice and crisp, also add a good crunch to the dish – not something you’d normally expect from a casserole.  A definite winner – with bacon!


Hello, 2015: Vegetable Paella

We had a very appropriately 30-something New Year’s Eve, replete with dinner guests, champagne, a charcuterie board, and of course, a game of vodka roulette (the Husband either won or lost, depending on your point of view.  The next morning, he felt he had definitely lost).  Totally approp.

Our dinner party plans were a little impromptu, and with a couple of guests with dietary restrictions, it was the prefect opportunity to deploy a recipe from Plenty, one of my THREE Christmas present cookbooks.  (Apparently, cookbooks are what you get for Christmas the year you start a blog.  This is mostly inspiring, though a bit terrifying, as they are beyond gorgeous.  And I’m not talking just the food or the photos, either.  How does someone raise seven children and a gaggle of dogs and look like this?)


Vegetable Paella For Six (Yotam Ottolenghi, with a few tweaks)

  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 orange bell peppers, sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 carton baby Bella mushrooms
  • 6 bay leaves
  • teaspoon smoked paprika
  • teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups rice (the recipe calls for Calasparra; I found this impossible to find and went with the medium grain Calrose instead)
  • 12 tablespoons sherry
  • 2 teaspoons saffron
  • salt
  • 4 cups of vegetable stock, brought to a boil
  • 8 plum or Roma tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 15 oz can artichoke hearts, well drained and cut into quarters
  • plenty of fresh parsley
  • lemon wedges
  1. If you’re serving this as a dinner party dish and want to get the timing done right, best to get your veggies prepped first.  Cut up your onion, peppers, fennel, etc. and set aside.  The rest of the dish takes about 45 minutes start to finish.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and saute about 6 minutes; add peppers and fennel and saute until they start to soften.  Add garlic and mushrooms, cook an additional minute.
  3. Boil your vegetable stock (your electric water boiler is perfect for this!)
  4. Add bay leaf, turmeric, paprika, cayenne pepper and give the mixture a stir.  Add the rice and stir it about for two minutes before adding the sherry and saffron.  Let that cook off about a minute or so and then add your vegetable stock and a dash of salt (especially if you’re using low sodium broth!).  Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for about 35 minutes or until the rice has absorbed the liquid.  Don’t stir it.
  5. When the rice has cooked through, taste it without disturbing it too much and adjust the seasonings.  Add the tomatoes and artichokes to the top and then cover for about 10 minutes, to give a chance for the heat to gently cook them.
  6. Serve with parsley and lemon wedges.
just missing the mariscos
just missing the mariscos

The Verdict:

Fact: paella tastes better with seafood.   That being said, this was very tasty rice with vegetables, and it had a pretty color, given the turmeric.  No hay de que, por lo menos, ¡teníamos bastante cava!

Cape Cod Stew

This is where my parents live.

the harbor
the harbor

After spending about 20 years in the suburbs of Boston, raising my two siblings and me, they moved full time to the very outer reach of the Cape a couple of years ago.  They now spend time going to yoga and planting in their garden.  They oyster.  Yes, that’s actually a verb (or at least it is out here, where folks buy yearly permits – November to March – for the joy of hunting for oysters once a week in their sandy beds).

harvested by my parents.
harvested by my parents.

My dad still works and my mom chases after the dog after birdwatching gets too exciting and she (the dog, not my mom) decides she must.join.them.NOW.

My parents also cook.

prep everything beforehand.
(Note: This is not a budget friendly meal.  It’s also not an exact recipe – substitute your favorite seafood, vegetables, etc.  Before you get started, make sure your carrots, onions, garlic, zest, basil, tomatoes, etc. are prepped.  Once the stew gets going, it’ll cook quickly.)

Cape Cod Stew

  • olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 2 28oz cans plum tomatoes, juices drained and crushed with your hands
  • 3 cups chicken or seafood broth
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, cut into strips
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest
  • a dash crushed red pepper
  • 1 pound firm white fish, cut into 1-2 inch cubes
  • 2 pounds mussels, cleaned
  • 1 pound littleneck clams, cleaned
  • 3/4 pound (uncooked) shrimp – in their shells will be tastiest, though the shells are a bit tricky to peel off in your stew
  • 1-2 tablespoons Pernod or ouzo
  1. First, make sure your clams and mussels are clean.  If not, soak them in a large pot of cold water and add a few tablespoons of flour; let sit for 1/2 hour.  Discard any mussels or clams that are not tightly sealed closed.  Remove the beards from the mussels.
  2. In large Dutch oven over medium heat, add a few turns of olive oil (about 1/4 cup).  Heat through and add onions and carrots.  Saute a few minutes, until softened.  Add garlic, tomatoes, broth, wine, basil, orange zest, red pepper flakes and some salt.  Simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Add fish and mussels; simmer three minutes.  Add clams and shrimp – cook another 2-3 minutes, or until the shrimp turns pink.  (NOTE: depending on the size of the mussels/clams, you may need to adjust the cooking times.)  Add tablespoon or two of Pernod or ouzo; taste the broth and adjust the seasonings to taste (salt, basil, zest, pepper, crushed reds).  Serve immediately, garnished with an orange slice – a squeeze or two throughout the meal is delicious.  Goes well with some warm, crusty bread.


The Verdict:

This stew showcases the best of the Cape.  Each bite = serious, serious love.  Share judiciously.

catch your OWN dinner.
catch your OWN dinner.