I don’t know about where you are, but around here, the smell of fall has been in the air all week. It’s especially heavy in the dewy cool morning light. I smile like the Mona Lisa when I’m walking to class or working in my garden. I’ve pulled the light sweaters out of the cedar chest. What is it about autumn that just makes life a little sweeter? And is there anyone out there that “hates” fall the way some people hate winter or summer? I can’t imagine disliking cool nights, crisp mornings, and warm (but not hot) sun in the afternoon.
With the advent of autumn on my doorstep, I start to move my menus from light cool fare to hearty comforting dishes. Today’s Corn and Tomato Bread Pudding is a great bridge between the bounty of summer and the more selective nature of fall. Fresh sweet corn cut off the cob pairs beautifully with hefty cubes of whole wheat bread, slivers of oven-dried tomatoes, and a generous sprinkling of sharp cheese.
I must say I was rather pleased to find my oven-dried tomatoes from last year that I’d tucked away in a cupboard and all but forgotten the past six months were still in perfect condition and very tasty in this dish. I’m actually about to start making a new batch of them now that my tomato plants are in overdrive, but its good to know the dried ones last so long. In lieu of your own oven-dried tomatoes, use store-bought sun-dried (don’t be fooled; there’s no “sun” involved, just sulfur) tomatoes that are packed dry, not in oil.
This dish makes for fantastic segues…first oven-dried tomatoes and now on to oven-dried corn. Yes, I’ll be drying more corn this year. I’d encourage you to do the same. And, after making this bread pudding, I think it’s a perfect candidate for dried corn in winter too. I plan to reconstitute the dried corn in a little warm milk and then continue with the recipe as instructed. It’s a relief to know I can still savor the flavors of local sweet corn and tomatoes in the midst of a snow storm.
And, while on the subject of preserving summer’s flavors, don’t forget to gather up plenty of fresh basil to puree and freeze. I’m fairly certain tossing a thawed cube of basil puree in the winter version of this bread pudding would be a smashing success. But! Don’t wait for cold gusts of wind to try this recipe. It really is a superb late summer dish too, with all the intensity of flavor that only fresh produce can provide.
Ironically, after all this hubbub about heartier dishes for fall and getting prepared for winter, I just made a few other recipes I’ll be posting shortly that are all about the easy breezy summer salad mentality. But when you think about it, that’s just what this short and sweet time of year is all about: getting to take your pick of both seasons!
Corn & Tomato Bread Pudding
Adapted from Fresh and Simple Vegetable Dinners
3 tablespoons chopped dried tomatoes
4 beaten eggs
1 ½ C. half & half
1 T. fresh chopped basil
4 C. cubed day-old wheat bread
1 ½ C. fresh corn kernels
1 C. shredded cheddar or herbed hard cheese
Place dried tomato in a small bowl and cover with hot water. Allow to soak for 10-15 minutes to soften. Drain.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, half & half, and basil. Set aside. In an ungreased two-quart baking dish, toss together the bread cubes, corn, cheese, and softened tomatoes pieces. (If you wish to make this dish ahead of time, cover and refrigerate the egg mixture and bread mixture separately for up to 24 hours.)
Carefully pour the egg mixture over the bread in the baking dish. Bake at 375 F for 35-40 minutes, uncovered, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool slightly and serve with fresh wedges of tomato.