Springtime is the season of B’s: blossoms and buds, bunnies and baskets. But the thing I love most about spring is that it’s the season of that other B — brunch.
There’s no reason why I can’t host brunch any other time of year, and sometimes I do, yet for some reason I tend to think “soup night” in fall and winter, and “backyard barbecue” in summer. But when spring rolls around, that’s when I get the itch to crack some eggs and break out the mimosas.
Maybe it’s because the foods of spring are so perfect for brunch. This is the best time of year to get butter and milk, when the cows are out foraging on fresh grass. And farm eggs are at their most plentiful, now that the chickens are back in action after their winter break. And then there are all those tender vegetables, like asparagus and green onions, finally emerging after the cold winter.
To celebrate the season, I created an easy make-ahead strata packed with the springtime flavor of scallions and asparagus. Stratas are like a savory bread pudding with eggs, cream and cheese, and they’re ideal for brunch because they’re actually better if you assemble them the night before. Then the morning before guests arrive all you have to do is just pop it in the oven.
Delicious, and easy. That alone is reason enough to call some friends over for brunch.
Asparagus and Scallion Springtime Strata
Makes 9 servings
Three kinds of piquant cheeses, plus a flavor-packed scallion pesto, brighten this rich strata. It’s easy to assemble and best if made a day ahead, making it the perfect centerpiece to a springtime brunch.
2 cups half-and-half
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 scallions, chopped
1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley
1 clove garlic, smashed
1/4 cup olive oil
8 ounces artisan bread, crusts trimmed, thickly sliced
1/2 bunch asparagus, woody ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch lengths (about 2 cups)
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
3/4 cup shredded fontina cheese
3/4 cup grated pecorino or parmesan
Generously coat a deep, 2-quart baking dish with butter. In a large bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the half-and-half, eggs, salt and pepper.
In a food processor, combine the chopped scallions, parsley, garlic, and olive oil. Process into a puree.
Pour about 1/2 cup of the egg mixture into the bottom of the baking dish. Add a layer of bread to fit the bottom of the dish, cutting pieces to fit as necessary. Top with half of the scallion puree, half of the feta cheese, 1/4 cup of the fontina, 1/4 cup of the pecorino, and half of the asparagus. Pour half of the egg mixture over the top, pressing to help the bread absorb the liquid. Repeat with another layer of bread, scallion puree, cheese and asparagus. Pour the remaining egg mixture over the top and press down again. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup fontina and 1/4 cup pecorino. Cover with plastic wrap, set a weighted plate on top, and refrigerate for several hours or preferably overnight.