Among the glorious leftovers we scored thanks to the Midwestern Gentleman’s recent surprise birthday party was a loaf of our friend Randy’s homemade sourdough bread. Randy has been making his own bread for many years, and this chewy, crusty loaf was a testament to the mastery he has achieved in the art of breadmaking. Since some of the bread had been cubed up at the party (for dipping into melted dark chocolate), I found myself in the kitchen around dinnertime a day later, staring idly at the baggie of cubed bread and fantasizing about bread pudding. And then it struck me — why not a savory bread pudding for dinner?
I rifled through the vegetable drawer for the latest cache of CSA goodies, and turned up a sweet red pepper, zucchini, beet greens, heirloom tomatoes, onion, and garlic. I also diced up the end of a loaf of pumpernickel bread from the bakery, which I knew would be neglected in favor of Randy’s sourdough unless I used it up now. Bread pudding is one of those tremendously forgiving recipes, whether savory or sweet. Different kinds of bread and different combinations of vegetables and herbs could easily be substituted in this dish. I know I did something right, because the Gent asked me to make sure to jot down my recipe so we can have this dish again.
Savory Bread Pudding
4 – 5 thick slices of sourdough and/or pumpernickel bread, cubed
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 sweet red pepper, diced
about 1 1/2 cups beet greens or swiss chard, chopped
1 medium tomato, diced, or 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small zucchini, diced
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
several sprigs fresh thyme
several sprigs fresh oregano
1 cup whole milk or plain almond milk
1/2 tsp garlic salt or favorite seasoning mix
salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease 6 ramekins with a 1 1/2 cup capacity each. Combine the chopped vegetables, herbs, and about 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese in a large bowl. Drizzle with a little bit of olive oil and toss to coat. Add the bread cubes. In a small bowl or large Pyrex measuring pitcher, beat the eggs, seasoning mix, and milk until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the egg mixture over the other combined ingredients and toss well until everything is lightly coated and the bread cubes soak up most of the liquid. Pour bread pudding mixture into ramekins and top each with additional shredded parmesan. Set the ramekins on a large baking sheet, and bake for 20 minutes or until bread is crusty on top and cheese is a rich, golden brown. Serve warm.