Leek Bread Pudding + Coconut Loaf

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{Smitten Kitchen‘s Leek Bread Pudding}

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{Sprouted Kitchen‘s Coconut Loaf}

I’m not entirely sure that these two recipes go together, but they’ve both been on my “to make” list for awhile now and they’re both made in loaf pans, so I thought maybe they should share a post. They’d also both be excellent additions to your Easter brunch menu, if you’re looking for new ideas – so that’s three things they have in common. I’ve been meaning to try the leek bread pudding for literally years now, and it did not disappoint. I’ve made the coconut bread before, but I’ve been wanting to do it for the blog and I’m so glad I did because it was even better than I remembered. I’ve been trying to avoid wheat lately, but I splurged on a piece of this fresh from the oven last night and it was worth every bite.

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This bread pudding couldn’t be easier, as bread puddings go. Just cube your bread and stick it in the oven for about 20 minutes, and sauté your leeks while the bread is toasting. Deb suggests stale brioche, which I’m sure is ideal, but I used a loaf of fresh french bread and it worked just fine. The recipe calls for one cup of leeks, but I used closer to two and it was delicious – and next time I might even use more (I bought three leeks and only used two of them – I think I could have used the third and it would have been a welcome addition, although it was fine with just the two. Deb also suggests you could sauté any other veggies you like along with the leeks and add them in as well).

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Layer your toasted bread cubes and leeks with cheese, pour a custard over it, and it’s ready to go into the oven. Again, the recipe calls for small amounts of chives and thyme; next time I’ll probably use more – although it was delicious as is. Deb noted that you could add more cheese as well, so of course I stirred a little grated parmesan in with my eggs and milk. It didn’t need it but of course it didn’t hurt.

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An hour later, you have a toasty, bubbling casserole that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Breakfast: warm, perhaps with an egg or bacon on top (not me personally – gross! – but others might like it that way); lunch: cold, with a crisp green salad; dinner: alongside a roasted chicken breast or something of that nature. I think it’s adorable in the loaf pan, but you could double the recipe and it would work in a 9″ X 13″ casserole dish (that’s my plan for Easter brunch). Savory bread pudding, who knew?

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And then, if you’re in the mood for something sweet, this divine coconut loaf from one of my favorite cookbooks. I love the Sprouted Kitchen blog, of course, but her cookbook is really worth getting as every recipe I’ve tried from it has been to die for.  As I’ve mentioned here many times already, I love anything with coconut,  so of course this bread is a safe bet – coconut flakes, coconut oil, and coconut milk.  I would call this recipe “healthy-ish” – it’s still a loaf of bread, and it still has sugar in it, but there’s enough whole wheat flour, coconut oil, and lack of white sugar and butter that I feel ok about eating it. I was calling it vegan until I remembered it has eggs in it (duh!), but it is dairy free.

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Again, super easy. Toast your coconut, combine your dry ingredients and your wet ones, and stir them together – two bowls, one spoon (ok, I used a spoon and a whisk), no mixer, easy cleanup. So much fun to stir cake batter with a spoon, I felt like a pioneer woman.  Is this how our grandmothers did things all those years?

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When I’ve made this recipe before I’ve never bothered with the glaze, but I did it just for blog purposes and was prepared to tell you you could skip this step – but it turns out the glaze is delicious. It adds a little extra sweetness and moisture to the cake, which isn’t necessarily needed but I appreciated it. Sara suggests serving the cake with fresh blackberries; I used strawberries here and it was SUCH a good combination. This is also something that could be served as breakfast or dessert (or perhaps just a snack!) – which I guess means it has more in common with the bread pudding than I initially thought. (Note: if you aren’t serving the cake warm from the oven, Sara suggests you toast your slices under the broiler for a minute or two).

One year ago: Chicken Pot Pie (two ways) and Chocolate Pudding

Leek Bread Pudding, from Smitten Kitchen via Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home

Yield: 6 servings (as a side dish)

1 cup leeks (or more to taste), white and light green parts only, cleaned and rinsed, and cut into 1/2″ thick slices
Kosher (or coarse) salt
2 tablespoons butter, unsalted
Freshly ground black pepper
6 cups 1″ cubed crustless brioche or other bread (about one loaf)
2 teaspoons chives, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
3 cups whole milk, heavy cream, or half-and-half (or a combination thereof – I used 2 cups whole milk and one cup half and half)
Freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup shredded Comté, Emmanthaler or Swiss cheese (I used Gruyère and a little extra Parmesan)

Place a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat, drain excess water from leeks, and add to pan. Season with salt, and sauté until leeks begin to soften, about 5 minutes, then reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in butter. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are very soft, about 20 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. While leeks are cooking, spread bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake until dry and pale gold, about 15 to 20 minutes, turning pan about halfway through. Transfer to a large bowl, leaving the oven on.

Add leeks, chives, and thyme to the bowl of bread and toss well. In another large bowl, lightly whisk the egg and egg yolks, then whisk in milk or cream, a generous pinch of salt, pepper to taste, and a pinch of nutmeg.

Sprinkle two tablespoons shredded cheese in the bottom of a buttered 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Spread 1/2 of bread mixture in pan, and sprinkle with another two tablespoons cheese. Spread remaining bread mixture in pan, and sprinkle with another 1/4 cup cheese. Pour in enough milk mixture to cover bread, and gently press on bread so milk soaks in. Let rest 15 minutes.

Add remaining milk mixture, letting some bread cubes protrude. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until pudding is set and top is brown and bubbling, about 55 to 65 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

Coconut Loaf, from The Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook

Yield: 6-8 slices

1/4 cup extra-virgin coconut oil, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut (I used flaked)
3/4 cup turbinado sugar
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 (13.5 ounce) can coconut milk (I used light)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup organic powdered sugar, or more as needed
Berries, for garnish

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease an 8 1/2″ loaf pan with a thin coat of coconut oil.

Spread the shredded coconut on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven until just golden brown, about four minutes.  Watch it carefully, as it can burn quickly. Set aside 1/2 cup for topping the loaf.

In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups of the toasted coconut and the turbinado sugar.  Sift the flours, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and stir to combine.  In another bowl, whisk the eggs together, then whisk in one cup of the coconut milk, the coconut oil, and the vanilla.   Gently stir the wet mixture into the dry ingredients until just combined.  Pour the mixture into the loaf pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, 45-50 minutes (mine took 55). Remove loaf from the oven and let cool to room temperature.

While the loaf is cooling, combine 1/4 cup of the remaining coconut milk and the powdered sugar in a bowl and whisk until there are no clumps. Add more sugar or more coconut milk to taste, depending on the consistency you prefer (you won’t use the entire can of coconut milk). Pour the glaze over the cooled cake and sprinkle the remaining toasted coconut on top.  Cut into slices (wait for the loaf to fully cool or your slices will crumble).  Toast each slice, if you like.  Serve with a handful of fresh berries.  YUM!!

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Roasted Cauliflower, Leek, and Garlic Soup

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Back in November I realized I had only posted five soup recipes in the then-nine-month life of this blog, and promised to remedy that.  Somehow two more months have gone by without any more soup – I’m going to blame Thanksgiving and Christmas, but really it’s pretty inexcusable. We’ve done white bean and kale, split pea, cream of fresh tomato, black bean and pumpkin, and curried butternut squash. I don’t know how I’ve had a (wannabe) food blog for almost a year and haven’t posted my favorite lentil soup, or chicken noodle, or even a chili – apparently I’ve been holding out on you all.  I’ve had a sweet potato and apple post in draft form since October, and I’m thinking I might share that this week even though it seems a little fall-ish.  I’m going to make my grandma’s minestrone tomorrow, and I have a couple others I’ve been wanting to try out, so if all goes according to plan this might be a Soup Post Every Day week on the blog (starting today, of course – I got sucked into Downton Abbey on Sunday night and thus couldn’t get this post up as planned yesterday).

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My girlfriends and I had a “cookbook exchange” a while back – like a white elephant, where everyone brings a present, you draw numbers, people can steal from you, etc. – except the presents were all cookbooks. My friend Karrie brought this one, and although I came away with something different, I had heard such good things from Karrie about Clean Eating (she subscribes to the magazine) that when I got home I ordered the cookbook. Some of the recipes seem a little less “clean” and a little more “diet-y” to me (somehow I don’t think of reduced-sodium cream of broccoli soup as “clean,” and there are a few casserole recipes that call for that, which I found strange), but overall I really like it.  And of course January is the perfect month to get really into eating “clean.”  I may have added a little more olive oil and salt than the recipe calls for, but it’s still a lot less olive oil and salt than usual so I feel ok about it.

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I’m not a fan of raw cauliflower, but I’ve recently discovered that (like most vegetables) it’s pretty delicious when roasted. And even better when puréed into a soup. I am a fan of leeks, though, which is why this recipe caught my eye in the first place. It also sounded perfect for a cold January night – it’s not as cold in Seattle right now as it is in other parts of the country, but it’s still soup weather almost everywhere.

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I’m pretty sure you could roast any combination of veggies, purée them with chicken broth, and turn them into a delicious soup – that’s basically all you do here, with the addition of a little nutmeg (which I couldn’t even taste, so I’m not sure it needs it) and milk added in at the end. Oh, and a few bay leaves.

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Your cauliflower will be very soft after it’s done simmering, so I broke mine down with a rubber spatula before puréeing.  That way, you can purée it with an immersion blender easily.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, however, a regular blender or food processor would work fine.  Adding a cup of milk turns it into a gorgeous, thick, and creamy soup you would never think is missing anything (although as I add in the notes below, a few garnishes won’t hurt).

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Roasted Cauliflower, Leek, and Garlic Soup, from The Best of Clean Eating

Serves 10 as a first course/makes 8 cups
Hands-on time: 15 minutes/total time: one hour

3 leeks, white part only, washed and thickly sliced
1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
1/2 head garlic, top cut off so cloves are exposed
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt (or more to taste)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or more to taste)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
3 cups low sodium chicken broth
3 bay leaves
1 cup skim or 1% milk
3 cups shredded basil
3 tablespoons hot water

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Toss leeks, cauliflower, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Spread onto baking sheet and roast in center of oven, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is browned and almost tender, about 25-30 minutes. [Note: I was worried that the soup might be too garlic-y, so I wrapped my garlic in tin foil – probably not necessary but better safe than sorry.]
2. Scrape leeks and cauliflower into a large saucepan or dutch oven. Add chicken broth and bay leaves. When the garlic has cooled a bit, squeeze the cloves from the skin into the pan (discard skins). Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes. Purée soup with an immersion blender, or transfer to a blender or food processor in batches and blend that way. Once the soup has been puréed, stir in milk and add more salt and pepper to taste (I definitely added a little extra here as it tasted pretty bland to me – but remember the basil is going to add a lot more flavor, so no need to panic like I did). Reheat before serving.
3. Place basil in blender with hot water. Purée until smooth. Ladle soup into warm bowls and garnish with the basil. [Note: I followed these instructions and it didn’t work too well – although I suspect it might work fine in a food processor, but I don’t have one (wah, wah). I ended up thinning mine with more water and a fair amount of olive oil; I also added a spare clove of roasted garlic and some salt to spice it up a bit.  At this point I started to wonder why I didn’t just use regular pesto, but I suppose that’s not as “clean.”  Though FYI, you could definitely go that route.  You could also garnish with one or both of my two favorite soup garnishes, parmesan cheese and croutons.  But again, not as clean. Alas.]

Soup keeps in the refrigerator for up to five days; in the freezer for up to a month. Prepare the basil purée a day before serving.

Nutrition info per 3/4 cup serving: 76 calories, 2g fat, 0g saturated fat, 11.5g carbs, 3g fiber, 4g sugar, 5g protein, 114mg sodium, 0.5g cholesterol

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Leek and Swiss Chard Tart

I’ve never been much of an egg person, which I realize sets me apart from most people. I’m already unable to be a true foodie since I don’t eat red meat, but the egg thing means I don’t even have a go-to egg casserole recipe (and makes it really hard to eat anything besides mimosas pastries and/or fruit at brunch). Up until recently I assumed my egg aversion equaled a quiche aversion, but when served a slice at a plated luncheon last summer I was forced to try a little bite, lest I risk revealing my unsophisticated palate to the room. And guess what? It turns out eggs, when mixed with cream and cheese and veggies, and baked in a deliciously buttery crust, aren’t so bad.

This leek and swiss chard tart recipe is incredibly easy – due in large part to the store-bought tart shell, but the veggies and custard aren’t at all difficult. Deb (from Smitten Kitchen) of course made her own crust, but I used store-bought per the instructions and it was just fine. I used an all-butter puff pastry (get a step above Pepperidge Farm if available), and the only thing I would do differently next time is to parbake the crust before adding the filling – the crust wasn’t soggy without par-baking, per se, but it wasn’t crisp.

To parbake, place the crust in your tart pan (or quiche pan, or pie pan), poke holes in the crust with a fork, line the pan with buttered or oiled foil, fill with pie weights or dried beans or rice, and bake for 10-15 minutes. Then remove the pie weights and foil and bake the crust for 5-10 minutes more, until lightly browned. Remove from oven, add the filling, and then bake for 30 minutes as instructed. That’s what I’ll do going forward and I think it will help – but if you’re crunched for time, it’s not a necessary step. You could also make your own crust, like Deb, but who has that kind of time? Using a store-bought crust (or pre-made homemade, if you’re really on top of things), this could be an easy weeknight dinner. (Full disclosure: I actually think homemade crust can make a big difference, but when the recipe calls for store bought puff pastry I have no problem following those instructions. And I’ve never pre-made crusts and then stored them in my freezer…but maybe someday).

You can make a similar tart or quiche with any type of filling you like, but I think now is the perfect time to make this recipe, with the chard still in the markets as winter draws to an end, but the leeks representing the beginning of spring produce (I realize you can find leeks year round, but they seem springy to me). And with Easter coming up, and wedding shower/baby shower season about to kick into high gear, it’s a great dish to add to your repertoire.

On a related note, does anyone know the difference between a tart and a quiche? This recipe is technically a tart (per the name), but it seems a lot like a quiche to me, so I did a little google research. In case you’re interested, a tart is “an open pastry case containing a filling” (or “a promiscuous woman,” incidentally), whereas a quiche is “a tart with a savory filling thickened with eggs.” So, I guess technically this is both a tart and a quiche. Hopefully that clears up any confusion.

If anyone has a favorite tart and/or quiche recipe, I would love to hear it. I bought some mini tart pans today and I’m pretty excited to make some non-quiche (egg free!) tarts, preferebly fruit filled. You know the kind with the glaze, in the pastry cases at French bakeries (and Whole Foods)? Bring on shower season!