Tomato, Roasted Pepper and Basil Strata (with Leftover Hamburger Buns) Recipe

tomato, roasted pepper and basil strata recipe | pamela salzman

I hope you had a fantastic 4th of July weekend!  There’s a good chance if you hosted a party, that you have some leftover hamburger or hot dog buns lying around.  What were you planning on doing with them?  Bread crumbs?  Great idea.  Croutons?  Another great idea.  Putting them in the freezer for the next time you make burgers or dogs?  Good luck with that one.  My freezer is basically one-third buns.  They’re all freezer-burned too, because I was lazy and threw the bags in there and didn’t bother to wrap the buns tightly in foil first.  And my kids reject previously frozen buns.  They would rather eat a hot bog or a burger without a bun over one that has been previously frozen.  It’s kind of annoying since we’re a family of 5 and you can’t buy a bag of 5 buns.  And I cannot handle wasting food, even a silly hamburger bun.

sauteer red onion and garlic

So I came up with this strata using leftover hamburger buns that had been sitting in my freezer and that I absolutely knew would end up in the compost bin.  Stratas are kind of like savory bread puddings, more bread-y than an egg-y quiche or frittata .  I actually prefer a frittata, but my husband and kids love their bread!   I posted a strata on my site a few years ago with spinach, tomatoes and feta.  Super delicious and I love that you can put it together the night before to soak in the fridge and then you bake it in the morning easy peasy.

tomato, roasted pepper and basil strata | pamela salzman

I essentially took what I had — a large tomato, half a red onion, a handful of baby mozzarella balls and a jar of roasted peppers in the fridge, plus some basil from my patio, and combined them with eggs and milk and voila!  No one had any idea that I used leftover, previously frozen buns.  And no one had any idea they were all different, including a whole grain sprouted bun!  Of course, gluten-free buns work equally well.  A strata is so versatile that if you had some leftover roasted zucchini, you could throw it in there too.  Or a link of leftover sausage or a handful of corn kernels.  And if you wanted a higher proportion of eggs, go for it.  Just bake until the strata feels “set.”  So no liquid gushes out when you push on the center of the strata and it kind of bounces back a bit.

tomato, roasted pepper and basil strata | pamela salzman

tomato, roasted pepper and basil strata | pamela salzman

What’s also cool about this is that you can make it for breakfast, lunch or (Meatless Monday) dinner.  I served it in these photos with some lightly dressed arugula and I think that’s the best accompaniment or just a simple green salad.  But any non-starchy vegetable, like green beans or summer squash, would be great, too.  Because bread is the main ingredient, I wouldn’t serve another starch with a strata.  But I would serve it with a cold glass of rosé.  Happy summer!

tomato, roasted pepper and basil strata | pamela salzman

tomato, roasted pepper and basil strata | pamela salzman

tomato, roasted pepper and basil strata | pamela salzman

5.0 from 5 reviews
Tomato, Roasted Pepper and Basil Strata
  • 1 Tablespoon unrefined, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing skillet
  • ½ large red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk or unsweetened, plain hemp milk or milk of choice
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt (or 1 teaspoon if your mozzarella is unsalted)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 6 ounces bocconcini (baby fresh mozzarella cheese), drained if in water
  • 1 large tomato, seeded (if desired) and diced
  • 1 roasted red or yellow bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
  • a handful of basil leaves, julienned
  • 5-6 ounces of whole wheat, spelt or sourdough bread, cut into 1-inch cubes, about 8 cups, preferably a little stale
  • For the Salad:
  • 6 ounces baby arugula
  • good aged balsamic vinegar
  • unrefined, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt
  1. Warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until tender, about 3-4 minutes, add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 30-60 seconds, then remove from heat and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the milk, sea salt and pepper. Stir in the bocconcini, tomato, roasted red pepper, basil, bread and onion-garlic mixture, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. You don’t have to soak overnight, but I love the way the bread soaks up the mixture. Feel free to put it straight in the oven.
  3. If you soaked it overnight, remove the strata from the refrigerator and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 10-inch skillet (or a 9-inch pie plate or equivalent) with olive oil and pour the strata mixture into the skillet.
  4. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until egg mixture is set and top is golden brown.
  5. Remove strata from oven and allow to cool slightly.
  6. While the strata is cooling, toss the arugula with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and olive oil (just enough to coat) and sprinkle with salt.
  7. Top the strata with the arugula salad and serve, or cut the strata into serving size pieces and top each piece with arugula salad.
Unbaked strata can be frozen if wrapped tightly. Thaw in the refrigerator before baking, uncovered.

MINI-STRATAS: grease 4 individual ramekins or muffin tins. First layer bread then vegetables and cheese. Last, pour egg, milk, salt and pepper on top. Refrigerate overnight, if desired. Bake for 25-30 minutes.


Avocado Toast

perfect avocado toast | pamela salzman

A perfect avocado completes me.  I have a mild obsession with them.  If you gave me a choice between mashed avocado on a piece of toast or an ice cream sandwich, I honestly wouldn’t even think twice about it!  I am more addicted to avocados than I ever was to sugar.  Hmmm, ok maybe not completely true.  But I have a healthier relationship with avocados.  Right now is my favorite time of year, because I’ve got all my besties — tomatoes, peaches, figs, corn, basil and Reed avocados.  What’s a Reed avocado?  If you don’t know the answer, I already feel sorry for you that you haven’t experienced the mother of all avocados.  In my humble opinion, Reeds are TOPS, at least in this country.  My mother-in-law often reminisces about avocados from her native Puerto Rico and I have a student from Mexico who thinks that hers are the best.  I think they’re both just feeling nostalgic, because I don’t know how you can beat a Reed.

amazing Reed avocados

Just look at them!  They’re as big as softballs with a generous ratio of meat to pit and soooooooo creamy and rich.  Sinful!  But they’re not, because avocados are amazingly good for you.  Perfect, untouched, non-oxidized, healthful fats, plus fiber and loads of Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant.  Avocados are an incredible food for little ones whose brains are developing.  And I think they’re an awesome beauty food — so great for your skin.  Also, this happens to be a drying time of year, especially for the lungs and wouldn’t you know avocados are lubricating to the lungs, as well as to the intestines.  Love it.

How to Cut an Avocado


How to scoop an avocado from its shell

I have so many recipes on my site which use avocados, from salads to dressings to soups to smoothies.  But my favorite way to eat an avocado is on toast.  The contrast between soft and buttery avocado and crunchy toast makes me swoon.  Ditch your Saturday morning bagel and cream cheese and go this route on a good whole grain bread.  Delicious and so much better for you!  There are lots of ways I prepare avocado toast and I posted a few images here.  Most of the time, I eat this for breakfast either on spelt or millet toast.  But it’s also the perfect afternoon snack for you or your kids.  The fat in avocados really keeps you satisfied for so much longer than a popsicle or a bags of chips.  Not that you eat that, but if you did, avocado toast is a way better snack.  Right now, I’m buying Reeds at the farmers market 3 for $5 and I have also seen them in Whole Foods for $2.50 each.  I’ve been suckered by some markets with their $.69 avocados, and 90% of the time, they’re horrible.  That feeling of slicing into an avocado that looks like it should be good and then isn’t is THE WORST!

Avocado with Wild Smoked Salmon

My advice to you is buy your avocados underripe and allow them to ripen on the countertop.  If you try to buy them already ripe at the store, they’ve been squeezed a thousand times and that’s why they’ll have mushy brown spots when you open them.  Avocados are ripe when they give slightly to gentle pressure.  I have also found that when you remove the small dark stem from the top, if the color underneath is pale yellow, it’s ready!  Green means it’s underripe and brown or black means it’s going in the compost heap.  Once they are ripe, you can refrigerate them until you’re ready to eat them.  Keep in mind that the skin of Reed avocados stay perfectly green even when ripe, as opposed to Haas which turn dark brown/black.  And now the bad news.  Reed avocados are only in season from August through October so enjoy them while you can!

Avocado Toast with Tomato

Are you an avocado toast fan?  What’s your favorite combo?

avocado toast

There really isn’t a “recipe” for this, just a few of my favorite combinations.  I like a lot of avocado on my toast, but you may choose to have less.  Just go with whatever seems right to you.

Mashed or sliced avocado  on toasted or grilled bread with:

~a squeeze of lime, a drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of red chili flakes and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt.

~thinly sliced smoked wild salmon or lox and a squeeze of fresh lemon.

~sliced ripe tomato with a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt.  A drizzle of olive oil is good, too.

~a drop of shoyu or good quality soy sauce, a drizzle of toasted sesame oil and a sprinkle of sesame seeds or gomasio.

~a fried egg and a pinch of salt.  A sprinkle of chopped chives is nice, too.

Homemade Marinara (Tomato) Sauce Recipe

Growing up in an Italian home meant never eating tomato sauce out of a jar.  Ever.  It wasn’t until a 6th grade girl scout camping trip when I tasted my first spaghetti and “Ragu” and it was an experience I would never forget.   Unfortunately, I proceeded to get completely sick after I ate the foreign sauce and my mother had to come pick me up.  Since then I’ve always had a thing against jarred.

The good news is that a delicious tomato sauce is quite easy to make, requiring very few ingredients and high fructose corn syrup isn’t one of them.  In fact, the simpler the better.  My mom would make tomato sauce in the winter a little thicker and richer than summer tomato sauce.  She always started out sauteeing thinly sliced onions in olive oil and adding either canned tomatoes from the supermarket or tomatoes we had canned from our garden over the summer.  Depending on the acidity of the tomatoes, sometimes she would add a pinch of sugar.  Mom would also use tomato paste which gave a fantastic richness to the sauce, as well as dried oregano and basil since 30 years ago fresh herbs like this were definitely not available in New York in the dead of winter.  This was her Sunday ritual and we often used the sauce multiple times during the week for pasta and various “alla parmigiana” recipes.
Fast forward to the 21st century where I have my own family which is crazy about Italian food of all kinds.  Although he’s never admitted it, I think my husband might have married me to ensure eating red sauce-laden dishes on a regular basis.  So I have been making my own pretty good sauce for many years, but I never really pushed myself to make a great sauce until Rao’s gave me a run for my money, literally.  Once my husband tasted this new tomato sauce, he was completely hooked.  I would not have cared that much except for the fact that Rao’s is insanely expensive (anywhere from $8-$11 for a 32 ounce jar) and I had just educated myself about the risks associated with consuming canned tomatoes, which all commercially prepared tomato sauces use.  Well, drat.  So I challenged myself to come up with a sauce that would make my husband happy flavor-wise and me happy both nutritionally and financially.
For many years I have been using Pomi chopped tomatoes in tetra-pak boxes which the company assured me are BPA-free and don’t leach aluminum.  In addition, they use non-GMO tomatoes, although they are not certified organic.  These are my first choice for tomatoes for sauce since I like a little texture in my marinara.  If you really insist on organic tomatoes, your option is Bionaturae Organic strained tomatoes in a glass jar or Lucini whole peeled tomatoes (pricey.)  Again, for me it’s a preference of texture that I choose Pomi.  I also believe that a delicious sauce doesn’t skimp on the olive oil and neither does Rao’s at 48 grams of fat in a jar.  I don’t use quite that much, but I’ve tried to make sauce with very little olive oil and it just isn’t the same.  Lastly, I take my BFF, the immersion blender, and puree about half of the sauce in the pot before adding fresh basil and in my opinion, this is what makes the sauce great.  The softened onions and oil get blended with the tomatoes and add a subtle sweetness that takes the place of my NOT BFF, sugar.But before you consider making this delightful sauce it is always recommended to opt for a clean corp house cleaning services.
Since pasta is a processed food which your body converts to sugar rather quickly, and one which is easily overeaten, I don’t make pasta all that often.  That said, we do find many uses for tomato sauce including meatballs (recipe coming on Friday), pizza quesadillas on sprouted or spelt tortillas, as a dipping sauce for some vegetables, and for my husband’s favorite dish, “insert any food here” alla Parmigiana.  Cooked tomatoes also have the bonus of being loaded with lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, and in addition, they increase the iron absorption of whatever food with which you combine it.  Even more reason to say “mangia!”

Homemade Marinara (Tomato) Sauce
Serves: makes about 5 cups
  • ¼ cup unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 4 pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced or 2 28-ounce containers of chopped tomatoes, such as Pomi
  • 1 7-ounce jar of tomato paste (optional, for a richer, thicker sauce)
  • Sea salt to taste
  • A small handful of fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced*
  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and sauté gently until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute.
  2. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste with 2 generous pinches of sea salt and bring to a simmer. Cover the sauce, lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  3. Puree about half the sauce with an immersion blender or pass through a food mill. (You can also blend half the sauce in a blender or food processor. Put the sauce back into the saucepan.)
  4. Add the basil and simmer for another 5 minutes or longer, if you have the time. Taste and adjust seasoning.
If fresh basil isn’t available, you can add a few dashes of dried basil and dried oregano.


clean corp house cleaning

Green Goddess Salad

I just spent a lovely four days in Park City, Utah enjoying the clean air and the peace and quiet (outdoors, of course; indoors I have my three kids and two of their friends, so no peace and quiet in the house from noon ’til midnight.)  There are no televisions and I insist that the kids leave the phones in their bedrooms so we can hike and dine without the ping of 6 iPhones.  Heaven.

Of course, with travel comes a deviation from eating the way I like to eat.  I consumed a little too much guacamole and chips a little too late at night, and then someone tried to torture me by buying a container of Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter.  I had mentioned it was like a more healthful Nutella, not that it was actually healthful.  By the end, I missed my juicer and my garden and all I wanted to eat were salads and vegetables.  In fact, I was craving this Green Goddess Salad while I was on the plane home.

No, I didn’t name this dressing after you.  The original Green Goddess dressing was created at San Francisco’s Palace Hotel in the 1920’s, for the English actor George Arliss.  Arliss was staying at the hotel and dined there every evening before he performed in a play called “The Green Goddess.”  There are so many variations on this dressing, the base of which is usually mayonnaise, sour cream and tarragon — the only herb I don’t like.  Can we still be friends?  So considering I am using none of the above, I don’t know if I can actually call it a Green Goddess dressing.  One day last summer, I tried to clean out some little bits of herbs that were lingering and blended them into my own version of the dressing and we all loved it.  So feel free to adjust the recipe according to whatever herbs you have on hand, even if it’s tarragon.  The kids think it tastes a little like ranch dressing.  So I made more the next day and used it as a dip for raw vegetables.

Green Goddess is a creamy dressing that’s a nice break from traditional vinaigrettes, and one that works well with crisp and sturdy lettuces.  There are dozens of ways to enjoy this salad, even as a main course, since so many things work well with the dressing.  Here I used tomatoes and radishes, which are both perfectly obvious, but you can add hard boiled eggs, shrimp, poached chicken, cucumber, avocado, and/or corn.  One day I took a few beefy tomatoes from the garden, sliced them up and drizzled this over.  Whatever you do, don’t leave out the anchovy paste — it really adds a little salty something and doesn’t taste at all fishy.  Your kids and your picky spouse don’t need to know it’s in there.  In fact, they don’t need to know anything other than you made up your own Ranch dressing.

Green Goddess Salad
Serves: 6
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, leave washed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces
  • Any of the following:
  • Thinly sliced radishes
  • Chopped or sliced cucumber
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Cubed avocado
  • Raw or cooked corn kernels
  • Quartered hard-boiled eggs
  • Dressing:
  • ½ cup whole plain yogurt (regular or Greek)
  • 1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped chives
  • 2 Tablespoons basil leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped dill (if you have it)
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 1-2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste or two anchovy fillets
  • ½ - ¾ cup unrefined, cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil (depending on how thick or thin you like it)
  • ¾ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  1. Place all dressing ingredients except oil, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor. With the motor running, slowly pour in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Toss lettuce in a serving bowl with enough dressing to coat lightly. Either toss remaining salad components separately with dressing or arrange on top of lettuce and drizzle with dressing.
The original Green Goddess dressing contains lots of tarragon. Feel free to experiment with other different fresh green herbs such as tarragon, cilantro, chervil or mint.

For a dairy-free version, use ½ cup silken tofu in place of the yogurt and increase lemon juice to 3 Tablespoons. I’m sure you could also substitute ½ of ripe avocado, but I haven’t tried that.