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Savory Bread Pudding with Kale

(Serves 6 to 8)
This savory bread pudding filled with kale, mushrooms and cheese is delicious as a vegetarian main course or as a side dish to a Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas ham. 

1 bunch kale, stems removed and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
8 ounces stale sourdough or whole-grain bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (optional)
1/2 cup shredded Fontina cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
6 eggs
3 cups milk


Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the minced garlic; sauté for 30 seconds. Add the kale, in batches if necessary; add the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.  Saute each batch for 3-4 minutes, or until wilted. Transfer the kale to a bowl.

Add the remaining olive oil to the skillet and add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring often, until they start to brown. Add the remaining garlic and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook for another minute or two, until the mushrooms are tender.
Transfer the mushrooms to the bowl with the kale.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Oil or butter a 2-quart baking dish.

Add the bread cubes, optional cranberries, Fontina and Parmesan to the bowl with the mushrooms and kale. Gently toss to combine the ingredients.
Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared baking dish. Beat together the eggs and milk; pour over the bread mixture Let sit for about 10 minutes before baking so that the bread can absorb some of the liquid.  Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the top is lightly browned and the pudding is set.  Serve hot or warm.
Shopping Tip
Fontina Cheese

Tucked into the northwest corner of Italy bordering France and Switzerland, the Aosta Valley is the smallest of Italy's twenty regions.  Valle d'Aosta is situated in the Alps and surrounded by some of the highest mountains in Europe.  As a result of its mountainous geography, cattle and sheep-raising have traditionally been the region's most important agricultural activities.  Many cow's milk cheeses are produced here, one of which is Fontina.  Fontina is a semisoft cheese with a mild buttery flavor. This versatile cheese makes delicious sandwiches and grilled cheese and melts easily for fondues and sauces. Always look for a true Italian Fontina when shopping. Fontina-like labeled cheeses are produced in other countries but they can be much milder in flavor.
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