Caprese Bread Pudding and Two Cocktails

by Tanya

I’ve been a derelict and delinquent blogger. I probably could never make a career of it, being a dedicated content creator who actually updates at least once a week. Not with a full time job, writer’s block, and lots of other things to be distracted by. Good thing I never wanted to be one of those lifestyle bloggers who develop themselves into a personal brand. That would potentially require having to go to things like networking events and all that. Yuck. Anyway, I’ve gone far longer between updates. For now, here are three recent recipes of mine: a savory bread pudding and two cocktails.

On the Plate: Caprese Bread Pudding. 

breadpud1

Some people find an interesting recipe, then go out to the store and buy all the necessary ingredients to make the dish. I do that sometimes, for potlucks or when a particular inspiration strikes. But for day to day cooking, I scavenge and dig through the fridge and cupboards for whatever is on hand, then find a recipe that combines as many of the ingredients as possible, picking up any missing ingredients at the store. Things like bread pudding are excellent for saving scraps and bits.

Ingredients (serving about 4, in a deep 6X6 inch baking dish)

  • 2.5 cups stale country bread, batard or baguette, cut into large cubes (crusts removed)
  • 2 large tomatos, or 4-5 smaller ones like Campari (which is what I used), sliced into thick-ish rounds
  • 3 tbsp of pesto
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese of your liking – something like a parmesan, pecorino, or a gouda. I had a wedge of Ewephoria, a new Gouda-like sheep’s milk cheese from Holland, aged 1 year. You could probably do a literal caprese with mozzarella, but I don’t know how that would work, texture-wise, since mozzarella is a very moist cheese.
  • 1 cup milk (or 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream if you want the dish extra rich)
  • 3 eggs
  • sprig of fresh rosemary
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper for seasoning

Preheat the oven to 375F.
Toss the cubed bread with some finely minced fresh rosemary and a few table spoons of olive oil.
Grease the baking dish with some olive oil and line the bottom with a layer of sliced tomatoes.
Spread half the pesto over the tomatoes, then season with a bit of salt and pepper.
Lay out half the cubed bread, and top with half of your shaved cheese.
Do another layer of tomato, pesto, s&p, bread and cheese with the remaining ingredients.
Whisk together the eggs and milk, and pour the mixture over the bread. It’s fine that the bread will stick out. Season a little more with salt and pepper, and lay out a few more tomato slices on top.
Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until the bread puffs up and the top develops a nice golden crust. Or until it smells so good that you basically can’t restrain yourself and almost reach into the oven with bare hands to pull the dish out.

breadpud2
Because the tomatoes release some of their juice, the pudding will be a little wet towards the bottom. I recommend letting it cool just a little before serving. It has a delicious crunchy top and a gooey custardy bottom.

In the Glass: Blithe Spirit and an Appletini
My cocktail club continues to go strong, 6 years later. We don’t always get together every month, but it’s always a great time when we do. In October, that month’s hostess picked the theme of Ghost Stories. I decided to try and make something from scratch, and rather than going for a dark and ghoulish concept, I created this drink named after Noël Coward’s play Blithe Spirit

blithespirit

Ingredients: sage, Tempus Fugit Creme de Noyaux, akvavit, Scotch whiskey (Glenlivet is good), Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel-aged Bitters

Muddle the sage in a shaker, add 1 part Tempus Fugit, 1 part akvavit, 2 part whiskey, several dashes of the bitters. Fill shaker with ice and shake shake shake. Pour into a coupe glass through a mesh strainer to catch the bits of sage. Note: you may need to adjust the ratio of the creme de noyaux to the whiskey, depending on how peaty and smoky your whiskey is. If it’s a bit more smooth, like Glenlivet, the above will work. If you’re using something like Bowmore or Laphroaig, you gotta amp up the sweetness of the creme de noyaux a bit to balance the peat. (As an aside, having mixed this drink for some friends at a movie night recently, it was decided that Petey and Smoky would be a great name for a detective duo. Or a pair of bootleggers.)

appletini

For our November gathering, the theme was Alternate Reality. My take on that was to make an Appletini, a drink I would never touch in a million years because to me it is symbolic of everything cloying, artificially tasting and a bit immature. Obviously, even in an alternate universe, I’d want my Appletini to taste good, so here’s my take.

Ingredients: homemade apple simple syrup, Cointreau, gin, dry vermouth, a squeeze of lemon juice

For the apple simple syrup: In a sauce pot, mix together 1 part store bought spiced apple cider, 1 part water, and 1 part sugar. Add peels and cores from 1-2 Granny Smith apples for tartness and pectin. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain out all the bits through mesh strainer. Syrup will keep in a jar in the fridge for several weeks. Good for cocktails, adding to your hot tea (or hot toddy), or poured over cake because YES.

For the cocktail: In a cocktail shaker with ice, shake together 1 part chilled simple syrup, 1 part gin (a dry, crisp gin without too much herbaceousness is good – I used Damrack), 1/2 part of Cointreau, a splash of vermouth, and just a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve in a coupe glass.