Happy Sunday! Here’s an amazing hearty and seasonal hors d’oeuvres for the vegetarians (and omnivores) in your life. I love this because the cheesy bread pudding has a peppery bite that is tamed by the creamy sweet butternut squash puree. The whole thing is brought together by the balsamic mousse which simultaneously adds acid and buttery cream. I hope you enjoy this comforting bread pudding bite as much as I do!
Ingredients/Pepato Bread Pudding
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
12 slices good quality white sandwich bread, crusts trimmed off (about 8 oz total)
5 oz crumbled goat cheese or 6 oz crumbled feta cheese
1/2 lb sun-dried tomatoes, finely diced
2 cups milk
3 Tbsp prepared pesto
1/4 cup freshly grated pepato cheese
Method/Pepato Bread Pudding
Grease the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish or other shallow 3-quart baking pan. Butter each bread slice on one side. Stack the bread, 6 at a time, and cut across the diagonal into triangles. Place half of the bread pieces, buttered sides down, in the bottom of the prepared dish. Scatter the cheese over the bread in one layer. Scatter the tomatoes over the cheese. Top with the remaining buttered bread pieces, buttered sides up. Whisk the eggs, milk and pesto together in a bowl until well-blended, then pour over the bread and cheese mixture in the dish. Push the top pieces of bread down lightly with the back of a fork so they soak up some liquid. Sprinkle the grated pepato over the top. Let the pan sit in the refrigerator for 3 hours before baking. Bake the pudding at 350º for 35 minutes with foil covering the pan, then remove the foil and continue to bake until pudding is puffed and golden brown on top, 25–30 more minutes. Cool the bread pudding and hold in the refrigerator until the next day. Using a round biscuit or cookie cutter, cut 2-inch circles from the pudding. Set aside at room temperature for up to 30 minutes.
10 baby spinach leaves
1 qt oil for frying
Heat the oil to 350º. Drop the leaves into the fryer until crisp. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.
Ingredients/Roasted Butternut Squash
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced into 1/4-inch cubes
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp fresh sage leaves, chopped
freshly ground black pepper
Method/Roasted Butternut Squash
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the squash cubes with the oil, garlic, sage and salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast the squash in a 375º oven until the squash is tender in the center and the outside is brown and crisp, 25–30 minutes. Take out of the oven when done, put in a serving bowl and set aside.
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup honey
3 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp water
1 cup heavy cream
Combine the honey and vinegar in a pot. Cook until reduced by half. Add the cornstarch to the water and create a slurry. Add this slurry to the honey and vinegar a little at a time, until it’s the consistency of honey. Whip the cream in a mixer on high until soft peaks form. Slowly drizzle 1/2 cup of the balsamic reduction into the whipped cream and whip until the mixture forms stiff peaks. Place the mousse in a piping bag.
Warm the bread pudding rounds in a 350º oven for 3 minutes. Pipe butternut squash into the bottom of each service cup or glass. Put a round of bread pudding on top of the squash, then pipe balsamic mousse on top of the bread pudding. Top with Crispy Spinach pieces.
Make the bread pudding a day ahead to allow flavors to develop. This will also make it easier to cut.
For a lighter dish, add roasted chicken pieces to the bread pudding. With the chicken, use arugula instead of spinach. Sauté the arugula with shallots and thyme, then finish with a touch of red wine.
Fire It Up!