...I became a James Madison University Alum.
After four of the most challenging, rewarding, terrifying, enlightening, self-discovering, mind-numbing, but sometimes, just plain fun years of my life, I graduated on Saturday with a degree in Media Arts and Design and a minor in Studio Art/Graphic Design. I’m still not sure how I feel about it quite yet. For so long I thought I would experience nothing but joy for completing this journey but now a part of me wishes it hadn’t ended. I now face a vast world on unknown instead of the friendly familiar. Time will tell what happens next, I suppose. For now, I’ll take a little while to relax, mull things over, unpack, and relish in my new title as a college graduate.
In the weeks leading up to moving out of my apartment I had a goal to use up as much of the remaining bits of food shoved into the corners of the pantry, fridge, and freezer. I did a pretty good job. By the time I moved out all I had left in the refrigerator was half a tube of anchovy paste, vegetable bouillon paste, a jar of tahini, mayonnaise, and an old lump of Parmesan cheese. There is something slightly satisfying about whipping up a dish out of the meager remains of the fridge and leaving clean and nearly empty shelves behind. That’s what I did about two weeks ago and ended up with a fairly original take on two spring classics.
I have a difficult time getting through a whole loaf of bread by myself before it goes stale so I usually take about a third of it and freeze it for later use. I noticed I had about four different bread nubbins sitting in my freezer and finally decided to use them to make a good savory and cheesy bread pudding. I searched around the kitchen for more flavor inspiration. Half a bag of frozen corn and frozen lima beans. A wedge of Swiss cheese. Some sundried tomatoes. And finally, a large bunch of Swiss chard I got from the farmers market because I couldn’t resist its pink, yellow, orange, and green stems. It all started to sound like a succotash to me. So it hit me: savory succotash bread pudding. I also like to call it rainbow pudding because of its plethora of colors. I know it sounds like it could be something including a Jell-O packet and food coloring but believe me, my rainbow pudding is waaay better.
It is comforting, but it also not quite so indicative of cold winter nights. With the fresh flavors and bursts of color, this veggie-laden bread pudding is what springtime is all about. The beans, corn, and sundried tomatoes are crunchy and sweet while the chard and basil offset it with a bit of bitterness and earthiness. The bacon and Swiss come together to turn it into something just a little bit more indulgent and add smokiness and a slight bit of nutty tang. I made a nice big batch so that I could easily heat up a portion throughout the week as I worked on final projects and studied for my tests. It may have originated from an assortment of leftovers but a pot of bread pudding gold is what it became at the end.
P.S. I made a really fun cookbook this semester for my final sculpture project. You can view it here. If you are interested in buying a copy there is a purchase link at the bottom of the right sidebar on this blog. Enjoy!
Savory Succotash “Rainbow” Pudding
Now just to warn you, I am a newly converted fan of bread pudding. I was always turned off by the soggy bread aspect until one time when I got bread pudding that was a bit more dry than usual and found that to be quite delicious. I especially like the crunchy top layer. So just to warn you, this recipe does make a rather dry pudding. If you like your bread super custardy and soggy, then feel free to add as many extra splashes of milk that you would like. Also, you will see that this recipe mostly uses evaporated milk. It's the key to making a rich and sturdier bread pudding without the extra fat.
5 cups of fresh rustic bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 can 1% or 2% evaporated milk
1 bunch swiss chard
1 Tbs. butter
1 cup frozen or fresh corn, thawed if frozen
½ cup frozen lima bean, thawed
1/3 cup chopped sundried tomatoes in oil
4-5 slices bacon, cooked and chopped into ½ inch bits
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup loosely packed chopped basil
4 oz shredded swiss cheese
¼ - ½ cup lowfat milk*
salt and pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
*note: add lesser amount if you like dry bread pudding and more if you like a wetter bread pudding. You don’t even need to add it if you don’t want to
First prepare all of your ingredients. Butter a 9X9 in. glass baking dish. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the bread cubes on a sheet tray and place in the oven for 10 minutes until the bread is lightly toasted. Remove from the oven and let cool. Pour the evaporated milk into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, remove from heat and set aside.
Wash and chop the Swiss chard and cook in a steamer basket positioned over a pot with about 1 inch of boiling water. Cover the pot and steam until the chard is tender. Once cooked, place the chard in a clean kitchen towel or cheesecloth and squeeze out some of the excess moisture. Set aside to cool some. In a frying pan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the corn and lima beans and season with salt and pepper. Sauté for about 5 minutes until it just starts to get some color. Transfer to a bowl to cool slightly.
Pour the bread cubes into a large bowl. Pour over the evaporated milk and stir to coat. Add in the cooled Swiss chard, the sautéed corn and lima beans, the chopped sundried tomatoes, and the bacon. Stir to combine. Season the eggs with salt and pepper and mix the basil into the eggs. Add to the bowl with the bread and stir again to coat everything with the eggs. Finally, add the Swiss cheese and combine thoroughly. Season once more with salt and pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes, if desired. Add ¼ to ½ cup more of regular lowfat milk if it looks to dry for your preference (see note). Transfer to the baking dish. It may seem like too much but pack it in and it should all fit. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes until firm. Cover the top with foil partway through if it seems to be browning too quickly. Cut into four portions and serve immediately.