During 2020—(Remember that year??)—we all learned to make sourdough bread. We cultivated our starter. We hoarded our flour when we could, given the shortages. We weighed or measured our recipe ingredients. We mixed and waited and folded and covered our dough. We turned the dough out into fabric-lined bannatons. And we baked those lovely loaves at high temperatures until they browned into beautiful, warm bundles of pure comfort and joy!

What do you mean, “What’s a banneton?”

(I’m beginning to think you didn’t really bake sourdough in 2020.)

If not, I understand. You had a lot on your mind. Luckily, you can buy pre-sliced sourdough bread from the store, perfect for this recipe. Any other hearty-type bread, such as French or Italian bread works too. What could be easier?

I love this layered, strata recipe because you can assemble all the ingredients in the slow cooker at lunch time. Let it cook all afternoon, so that by dinner time, everything is done! My husband and I are vegan, so we eat this as a main dish alongside a green salad. The bread cooks into bread-pudding consistency at the bottom. There is something soothing and warm about it. But the rest of the dish is pure “late summer,” with the tomatoes, the basil, the corn and the squash all resting on top.

You could just as easily serve this as a side dish, and it makes very good use of whatever extra of these vegetables you have on hand. For the two cups of corn in this recipe, you may use canned or frozen corn. I had three extra fresh ears of corn (uncooked and husked) leftover from dinner the night before. I placed them on a large plate, covered them with two damp paper towels and microwaved them on high for 4 minutes. I cut the kernels off the cobs, yielding the perfect amount.

And while your slow cooker does the work, you have time to look up the word “banneton.” (Or not.)

It’s all good.

Summer Strata in the Slow Cooker
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6 servings
 
Ingredients
  • ½ loaf French, Italian or Sourdough Bread, cut into 2-inch square slices
  • 3 fresh, diced tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons fresh, snipped (or chopped) basil
  • ½ cup chopped green pepper
  • 1 medium-sized zucchini, sliced
  • 1 medium-sized summer squash, sliced
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups corn kernels
  • Toasted bread crumbs and/or Parmesan cheese to garnish*
Instructions
  1. In a blender or food processor, combine the tomatoes, garlic, salt, onions and olive oil. Blend until smooth. Stir the fresh basil into the sauce by hand. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the vegetables, including the green pepper, zucchini and summer squash. Season with pepper.
  3. Arrange the bread slices (overlapping) in the bottom of a 4 to 5-quart slow cooker and layer half the zucchini vegetable mixture on top. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon about one quarter of the tomato sauce on top of the vegetables and spread that with half the corn. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Repeat the layer.
  5. Top the whole thing with the remaining tomato sauce.
  6. Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low until vegetables are tender, 5 to 6 hours. When ready to serve, garnish with toasted bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese if desired.
  7. *Note: I use vegan Parmesan cheese.