On Cast Iron and Strata

November 16, 2008


I’m bone tired right now, but in the best possible way. It was a jam-packed weekend that included about 18 hours in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and also a very, very busy day back here in Chicago today. But this is the kind of exhausted that I love: I had people to see, things to do—and see and do I did. And, of course, I cooked too.





Our visit to Ann Arbor was tightly edited (we were visiting Kevin’s sister, who’s a surgery resident, and we wedged our stay between her shifts): in less than a day, we caught the football game, which is truly the show in town (but, sorry Ms. Arbor: Go Cats!); sampled beers at two breweries; ate a great dinner; took a spin around campus; talked politics and celebrity gossip and music and wine and food; and skipped down memory lane. Oh, and I managed to ferret out the best kitchen store in town.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)



And the kitchen store is where I picked up the cast iron pan pictured in this post. It’s something I’ve had on my wish list for a long time. I have a Lodge griddle, so the skillet had seemed superfluous. But after cursing my cast iron deficiency one too many times while scanning recipes that demanded not just a broad cast iron surface, but deep sides too, I finally took the plunge during a post-beer trip to Ann Arbor’s kitchen store. (Needless to say, the cast iron was not all I came away with; lesson learned: tipsy shopping is not a good idea.)



When we got home this morning, after lugging our overnight bags and kitchen store haul up the four flights to our apartment, I grabbed my new skillet, proceeded directly to the kitchen and whipped up this strata. Do you know about stratas? They’re in the same family as frittatas, just swap chunks of rustic bread in for the potatoes. And they make a perfect one (cast iron!) skillet breakfast.



I particularly like this version of the strata. For one thing, I’m almost sure to have all the ingredients on hand: the nub of a loaf of bread, perilously close to going bad; canned tomatoes; eggs; fresh herbs; onions; garlic and some bits of creamy, salty feta. Also, they’re fun to make. Methods will differ, but this recipe asks you to saute slim half moons of onion and slivers of garlic in some olive oil (in your shiny new cast iron skillet!), along with some sage and red pepper flakes. Next, add the canned tomatoes, right along with their juices. Stir in the cubed bread, which will start to soak up the flavorful sauce. Over that, you’ll pour four eggs, beaten into frothiness with a generous dallop of yogurt. Dot with feta and bake until it’s puffed and golden. To finish it off, shred some parmesan on top, fire up the broiler and pass the skillet briefly beneath the flame. Cut yourself a wedge and enjoy (while coveting your favorite new kitchen implement).


Tomato-Feta Strata
Food & Wine

Printable Recipe

4 large eggs
1/2 cup low-fat yogurt
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons finely chopped sage
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
One 16-ounce can diced tomatoes with their juices
Salt and freshly ground pepper
5 ounces whole wheat peasant bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (4 cups)
2 ounces feta cheese, crumble

Preheat the oven to 450Β°. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, then whisk in the yogurt and parsley.

In a 10-inch ovenproof skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, sage and crushed red pepper and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the onion is softened and lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices, season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Stir in the bread and sprinkle with the feta. Pour the egg mixture on top and bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool slightly, then serve.

24 Responses to “On Cast Iron and Strata”

  1. Cathy R Says:

    It looks fabulous…don’t forget to season the cast iron, as it will work better in the future.

  2. Cathy R Says:

    Your Strata looks divine…I enjoy reading and observing your cooking. You look like you are having fun in the kitchen!

    Happy Thanksgiving to you!

    Cathy R

  3. sammyw Says:

    Mmm, looks super tasty…!

  4. Suzuzaa Says:

    appetizing everything ….

  5. sue bette Says:

    Did you get to Zingerman’s? I know no one in Ann Arbor but would like to make the trip someday just to get to there – I love their cookbook and online store.
    The strata looks amazing, and I am a huge Lodge fan – a great/cheap product that is still made in the U.S.A.

  6. eggsonsunday Says:

    Ah, I love stratas and fritattas, and Kristin, you *won’t* be sorry about buying that cast iron pan. It remains one of my favorite pieces of kitchen equipment! -Amy

  7. Caitlin Says:

    Looks like I’m not the only one – Ann Arbor = Zingerman’s = awesome. Seriously, if you didn’t go, you should. I’m from South Bend, and we intentionally make day trips to Ann Arbor just to go to Zingerman’s.

  8. Anjuli Ayer Says:

    This looks outstanding. I love one-dish meals.

  9. Giff Says:

    nice! I love the use of bread here – haven’t tried that yet for breakfast in this way. And yes, I love me my Lodge pans too πŸ™‚

  10. I have also been eyeing a nice cast iron pan. Did you get a pre-seasoned one or are you going to do it yourself? I can’t decide which one I want to get but it is on my evergrowing kitchen wish list.

    I hope you enjoyed your packed to the brim weekend!

  11. Cathy R; sammyw; Suzuaa: Thanks!

    sue bette: I saw Zingerman’s on our way into town and was intrigued. But, we couldn’t fit it into our 18 hours. : ( Next time! (I am almost positive, though, that my sandwich at lunch was on Zingerman’s bread — does that count?!?)

    Amy: Thanks! You know a piece of kitchen equipment is good when you’re actively seeking out recipes just to put it to use. Corn bread anyone?

    Caitlin: Ok, it’s official. I shall never leave the Chicago city limits again without asking for recommendations. I’m so sad I missed Zingerman’s, but I know we’ll be back.

    Anjuli: Thanks!

    Giff: Give it a try!

    whitney: I bought a pre-seasoned pan (the Lodge selection was all pre-seasoned), but I seasoned it myself, just to be sure. I ruined a cast iron pan with dish soap (horror!) a few years ago and won’t make the same mistake again.

  12. Tanu Says:

    This looks so delicious!! I am lucky enough to have one of my Grandmother’s cast iron skillets…it has been around a very long time. You have me pining for dowtown Ann Arbor! Worked on Main st. for years..still mis it. May I ask what kitchen store you shopped?

  13. K8 Says:

    Never think twice about a “tipsy shop”. As long as they don’t happen too often they are wonderful. Your strata looks like a dream come true.

  14. Ali Says:

    This looks awesome!! And I can’t believe Kvas let you into a store “tipsy”…We do enough damage on our own will power!

  15. Tanu: Lucky you! I don’t remember the name and I couldn’t find it quickly on the web. It’s across the street (kitty corner) from The Grizzly Peak. And it’s attached to a garden store. Any Ann Arbor fans out there care to chime in?

    K8: Good advice!

    Ali: Well, he was distracted by the football. Worked like a charm.

  16. Tracy Says:

    This strata looks wonderful in this cast iron pan. The ingredients sound delicious.

  17. Dawn in CA Says:

    I am coveting a pre-seasoned cast iron pan — so envious! Yours looks perfectly black and lovely. And I think it is okay to use soap on a well-seasoned pan, isn’t it? I could swear we always did on my mom’s growing up, and it did not seem to hurt. Of course, that thing probably had a decade or more of seasoning. πŸ˜‰

  18. Jesse Says:

    This sounds amazing!! I can’t wait to try it!

  19. Kevin Says:

    That look tasty!

  20. Tracy: Thanks!

    Dawn: Everything I’ve read seems to indicate that dish soap (along with a whole host of other things) is a strict no-no. I’m in the better-safe-than-sorry camp at this point. That said, I think your theory (the more seasoning, the less hassle) is promising.

    Jesse and Kevin: Thanks!

  21. Anna from Ann Arbor Says:

    I believe you stopped in at Downtown Home and Garden (www.downtownhomeandgarden.com)

    It’s great that you got to enjoy a crazy football Saturday in Ann Arbor, but now you have to plan a trip for the spring or summer when most of the students are gone and you can enjoy your pint or Zingerman’s sandwich outside!

  22. Melissa Says:

    Ah strata! I have wanted to make one in the past and then completely forgot about it. What a tasty beautiful photo reminder.

    Congrats on the cast iron. I only got mine about 3 months ago and it’s been great!

  23. Anna: Yes! That’s it! Am I right that it’s one of the better kitchen shops in town? I realize now that I was assigning superlatives before trying any other stores!

    Melissa: Thanks! You know, it’s good to know people who agree that new cast iron is worth a congratulations. : )

  24. Melanie Says:

    What a gorgeous-looking dish – I think I know what I’m having for supper tonight!

    On the subject of washing cast iron – once it’s well-seasoned (ie: black, which yours looks to be), you can wash with detergent, just go easy on the scrubbing, and do a little re-seasoning afterwards: rather than leaving the pan to drip-dry, rinse it off and put it back on the burner/ in the oven to dry, then rub it over with a little oil while it’s still hot. That’s what I always do and my pans have lasted years!

    I’ve used mine over the last couple of months to:
    bake a ham
    bake a cake
    make pancakes
    scramble eggs
    saute chicken and make a herbed cream sauce
    make a curry – and chapattis to go with it

    Have fun with your new toy!


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