Chef Dominick Cordero of Bellingham shares this recipe for spinach-mushroom strata from the Maple Alley Inn, the Opportunity Council program that feeds those in need. The 14th annual Dine Out for Maple Alley Inn is today, May 6. You eat and the restaurants donate a percentage of sales to the program that provides hot, nutritious meals for anyone who is hungry.
"This is the dish we cook for our clients at Maple Alley Café for breakfast. It has all the food groups and is really a meal in itself, and the cool thing is that it's easy to substitute ingredients. It's different every week - depending on what types of meat, cheese and vegetables we have on hand.
"Meals cooked from the heart are always better, and it shows when I see the the looks on people's faces when we serve this strata," Cordero says. "It's really pretty simple, you just need to be careful that the top doesn't overcook before the center is done. Cover the strata with foil if it starts to brown."
"When I was growing up both my parents were serving in the army - so they used to bring my brother and I big boxes of MREs (meals ready to eat). These are military-issued meals that come in vacuum sealed pouches that you boil and squeeze out to eat. It was like eating a slurpy on a plate - I figured that there must be better food out there, and I discovered the Food Network.
"The first thing that I made and loved was oysters Rockefeller and I decided I wanted to be a professional chef and train at Le Cordon Bleu," Cordero says. "My mother always encouraged volunteerism, so I'm taking what I love to do and serving as an AmeriCorps member, using my training to serve healthy nutritious meals to people in need."
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped onions
4 ounces mushrooms
2 bunches fresh spinach or 1 package frozen spinach, thawed
2 tablespoons fresh basil or 1 tablespoon dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste
4 cups milk or half and half
1 loaf sourdough bread, thinly sliced, crusts removed
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded or grated
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded or grated
Saute mushrooms and onions in butter.
Stir in spinach and set aside.
Whisk eggs and milk (or cream) and add salt, pepper and basil.
Butter a 9-inch by 13-inch pan and place one layer of bread on the bottom, so that it fits snugly.
Spoon the vegetable mixture over the bread, and top with cheeses.
Pour egg mixture over everything.
Refrigerate two hours or over night.
Bake at 350 degrees uncovered for 50-60 minutes, or until set.
Cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Six to eight.
Dine Out for Maple Alley Inn is May 6 at more than 50 Whatcom County restaurants. Patrons eat breakfast, lunch or dinner and the restaurants give a portion of sales to the charity that provides meals to people who are homeless, mentally ill, working poor, aging, disabled veterans and families with children.
The Opportunity Council also accepts individual donations for Maple Alley Inn. Mail checks payable to Opportunity Council Maple Alley Inn to 1111 Cornwall Ave., Suite C, Bellingham, Wash., 98225.
For more information on Dine Out or participating restaurants, call 360-734-5121, ext. 233, or go online to oppco.org/event/dine-out-2014.