The Food Issue
By Lisa Zwirn
November 7, 2010

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Pumpkin, Leek, and Smoked Cheddar Strata Serves 8 to 10

JP’s Centre Street Cafe owner Felicia Sanchez makes a different strata every weekend. Since the restaurant always has Iggy’s dinner rolls on hand, that’s the bread she uses, but you can use any crusty, chewy loaf.

1 2 1/4-pound baking pumpkin

1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves torn

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 leeks, white and light-green parts only, sliced into thin half-moons

6 Iggy’s dinner rolls or 1 16-inch French baguette, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (about 8 packed cups)

10 ounces smoked cheddar cheese, shredded

8 eggs

3 cups whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper

Set the oven at 350 degrees. Halve the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds and fibers. Place the pumpkin, cut sides down, on a baking sheet. Bake until the pumpkin is tender when pricked with a fork, 30 or 40 minutes. When cool enough to handle, skin the pumpkin and cut into 3/4-inch chunks. Measure out 3 cups of pumpkin for the strata and set aside. (Maintain the oven temperature.)

In a large skillet, with 1 inch of boiling water, cook the kale, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and refresh under cold water. Squeeze the kale to remove the water, then chop coarsely. Wipe out the skillet. Heat the oil over moderate heat, then cook the leeks until softened, about 8 minutes.

In a very large bowl, combine the bread, pumpkin, kale, leeks, and cheese. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs. Whisk in the milk, cream, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Pour the egg mixture into the bowl with the bread and stir to moisten all the bread.

Transfer the strata mixture to an ungreased 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking dish. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. (Or chill, covered, for up to 12 hours. Let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes before baking.)

Bake the strata at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven and stir, moving the outer edges to the center and the less-cooked center to the edges. Return the strata to the oven and bake until set in the center and golden, about 40 minutes more. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Lisa Zwirn is a regular contributor to the Globe Magazine’s food issues. Send comments to