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Recipe: Bake a comforting, eggy, bread-soaked strata with cheddar and tomatoes to break the Yom Kippur fast

Recipe for Tomato Cheddar Strata from the Food section of The Boston Globe.

Serves 6

A warm, comforting, eggy, bread-soaked strata is ideal for serving after a day of fasting for Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday that begins at sundown on Sept. 15 and ends a day later. Stratas are essentially savory bread puddings in which the bread soaks up a creamy custard. They can be assembled ahead (up to a day) and baked just before serving, so no one's in the kitchen doing prep at the last minute. But a strata can also go straight into the oven after you layer it. Take advantage of the last tomatoes of summer in this homey casserole with sourdough, cheddar, and eggs infused with basil. The dish is an ingenious invention designed to use up stale bread; when it's layered with an egg-and-milk custard, the texture turns creamy. If your bread is fresh, toast it briefly in the oven. When you make the layers, you can switch out cheddar for Gruyere, Gouda, or any good melting cheese of your choosing. This dish invites improvisation. Thick tomato slices cover the top and give it a little color. After the strata has been baking for about 30 minutes, you remove it from the oven and press the tomatoes into the custard with a flat spatula. The end result is a pleasantly soft filling with a crunchy top, to serve after the fast or make for your next patio brunch.

Butter (for the dish) 3 large field tomatoes (about 2 pounds), cored and thickly sliced Extra salt (for sprinkling) 1 unsliced loaf (about 1 pound) sourdough bread or another dense loaf 4 eggs ½ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon ground pepper 2 cups half-and-half 2 cups whole milk 1 large handful fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped 2 cups (about 6 ounces) grated cheddar Extra fresh basil leaves (for garnish)

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Have on hand 2 baking sheets and a wire rack.

2. Line 1 baking sheet with a double thickness of paper towels. Spread the tomato slices on the baking sheet in 1 layer. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Let the tomatoes sit for 20 minutes. Press out excess moisture from the slices with a top layer of paper towels.

3. Meanwhile, cut the bread into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Stack them and cut them into thirds or quarters to make 3-inch pieces. You can leave the crusts on or cut them off if they are very hard. Place a wire rack on top of a baking sheet and spread the slices on the rack in one layer. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly toasted. (You may need to use 2 baking sheets.)

4. In a bowl, whisk the eggs with the 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, half-and-half, and milk until blended.

5. In the buttered baking dish, layer half the bread slices. Top with half the basil, half the tomato slices, and half the cheese. For the next layer, add bread, basil, and all but 1 tablespoon of the cheese. Spread the remaining tomato slices on top. Pour the egg mixture over the bread layers, and press down with the palm of your hand. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon cheese. At this point, the casserole can go straight into the oven. Or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

6. If the strata was refrigerated, let it sit at room temperature for half an hour. Bake the strata uncovered for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and press the tomatoes into the custard with a flat spatula. Return to the oven and continue to bake for 15 minutes, or until puffed and golden and a knife inserted into the custard comes out clean. (Total baking time is 45 minutes.) Let the strata settle for 5 minutes. Serve hot or warm.

Sally Pasley Vargas

Serves 6

A warm, comforting, eggy, bread-soaked strata is ideal for serving after a day of fasting for Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday that begins at sundown on Sept. 15 and ends a day later. Stratas are essentially savory bread puddings in which the bread soaks up a creamy custard. They can be assembled ahead (up to a day) and baked just before serving, so no one's in the kitchen doing prep at the last minute. But a strata can also go straight into the oven after you layer it. Take advantage of the last tomatoes of summer in this homey casserole with sourdough, cheddar, and eggs infused with basil. The dish is an ingenious invention designed to use up stale bread; when it's layered with an egg-and-milk custard, the texture turns creamy. If your bread is fresh, toast it briefly in the oven. When you make the layers, you can switch out cheddar for Gruyere, Gouda, or any good melting cheese of your choosing. This dish invites improvisation. Thick tomato slices cover the top and give it a little color. After the strata has been baking for about 30 minutes, you remove it from the oven and press the tomatoes into the custard with a flat spatula. The end result is a pleasantly soft filling with a crunchy top, to serve after the fast or make for your next patio brunch.

Butter (for the dish) 3 large field tomatoes (about 2 pounds), cored and thickly sliced Extra salt (for sprinkling) 1 unsliced loaf (about 1 pound) sourdough bread or another dense loaf 4 eggs ½ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon ground pepper 2 cups half-and-half 2 cups whole milk 1 large handful fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped 2 cups (about 6 ounces) grated cheddar Extra fresh basil leaves (for garnish)

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Have on hand 2 baking sheets and a wire rack.

2. Line 1 baking sheet with a double thickness of paper towels. Spread the tomato slices on the baking sheet in 1 layer. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Let the tomatoes sit for 20 minutes. Press out excess moisture from the slices with a top layer of paper towels.

3. Meanwhile, cut the bread into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Stack them and cut them into thirds or quarters to make 3-inch pieces. You can leave the crusts on or cut them off if they are very hard. Place a wire rack on top of a baking sheet and spread the slices on the rack in one layer. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly toasted. (You may need to use 2 baking sheets.)

4. In a bowl, whisk the eggs with the 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, half-and-half, and milk until blended.

5. In the buttered baking dish, layer half the bread slices. Top with half the basil, half the tomato slices, and half the cheese. For the next layer, add bread, basil, and all but 1 tablespoon of the cheese. Spread the remaining tomato slices on top. Pour the egg mixture over the bread layers, and press down with the palm of your hand. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon cheese. At this point, the casserole can go straight into the oven. Or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

6. If the strata was refrigerated, let it sit at room temperature for half an hour. Bake the strata uncovered for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and press the tomatoes into the custard with a flat spatula. Return to the oven and continue to bake for 15 minutes, or until puffed and golden and a knife inserted into the custard comes out clean. (Total baking time is 45 minutes.) Let the strata settle for 5 minutes. Serve hot or warm.Sally Pasley Vargas

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