Potato strata layers potatoes and other vegetables with eggs and cheese, and would suit many vegetarian meal plans.

It would also appeal to nonvegetarians, perhaps as the hearty centerpiece for a spring brunch.Any kind of potato may be used, but for added visual interest try using unpeeled red potatoes.

SPRING POTATO STRATA

Nonstick cooking spray

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

3 medium leeks, thinly sliced

5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 cups coarsely chopped red bell peppers

8-ounce package sliced mushrooms

2 1/2 pounds potatoes (about 8 medium), cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

2 1/2 cups shredded fontina or Swiss cheese

5 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 1/4 cups milk

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crushed (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly spray a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

In a large skillet, heat butter over medium-high heat until it melts. Cook and stir leeks and garlic 1 to 2 minutes or until leeks are tender. Add bell peppers and mushrooms; cook 4 to 6 minutes or until peppers are crisp-tender. Remove from heat; set aside.

Layer half of the potatoes onto the bottom of the prepared dish; sprinkle with 1 1/2 cups of the cheese. Spoon vegetable mixture over cheese. Layer remaining potatoes over vegetables. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt, pepper and thyme (if desired); pour evenly over potatoes. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake 1 hour or until potatoes are almost tender. Remove foil; top with remaining 1 cup cheese.

Bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until top is golden and potatoes are tender. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes; cut into 8 servings. Preparation time 30 minutes, cooking time 1 1/2 hours. Makes 8 servings.

Nutritional information per serving: 432 calories, 19g fat, 185mg chol., 833mg sodium, 49 carbo., 5g fiber, 19g protein.