Shakshuka… Or “Yay, we’re not sick anymore” dinner

shakshuka

The saga of diversifying the munchkin’s palate continues. This week’s chapter unfortunately includes a painfully long family battle with an ugly virus so introducing any new flavors had to be put on the back burner. However, we all seem to be coming out of the dark as of last night (ish) so I jumped at the chance to spice up our dinner (and provide something more satiating than the water, rice, and cold meds diet we’ve been on for the past 9 days). Introducing: my shakshuka.

onion, tomato, berbere

The beauty of my version of this poached egg and tomato dish is its not only super easy and healthy, but quite the fusion food (why introduce one flavor when you can introduce several)!  While the origin of shakshuka is disputed, one thing everyone can agree on is its super tasty. My recipe includes a spice blend from Ethiopia called berbere which includes spices like chilies, cinnamon, fenugreek, and coriander to name just a few. Don’t worry if you can’t find berbere- have fun playing around with different spice blends (curry, harissa, etc.). In fact, this dish is so versatile that you can really do anything with it! Add more veggies, cheese, herbs, or sauces (I topped this one with a chimichurri). Breakfast for dinner? Sure! Warm spices? Yes please! Zesty Argentinean salsa on top? Heck yes! Bread?? Mmmmmm.

Print Recipe
Shakshuka with Chimichurri
A spicy blend of flavors cooked with rich tomatoes that makes the perfect poaching sauce for eggs!
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 20 min
Cook Time 30 min
Servings
portions
Ingredients
Shakshuka
Chimichurri
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 20 min
Cook Time 30 min
Servings
portions
Ingredients
Shakshuka
Chimichurri
Instructions
  1. 2 hours before serving combine chimichurri ingredients in small bowl and set aside (this sauce tastes better the longer it sits).
  2. In a saucepan with a tall edge, heat oil on medium heat. Saute the onions, jalapeno, and garlic until soft. Add in the spice blend and cook for 1 min, until aromatic. Add in the crushed tomatoes. Lower the heat, cover, and cook until dark and thick (20-30 minutes). Remove lid and carefully added the eggs to the sauce. Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes (until whites are set but yolks are still runny). Serve with chimichurri, herbs, and grilled bread!!

Gingerbread

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’Tis the season for cookies, cookies, and more cookies. And is there a cookie that epitomizes the holiday season more than gingerbread?? Even if it’s not your favorite cookie, you have to admit that it’s difficult to refuse those spicy-sweet treats this time of year. Whether you make gingerbread people or go all out with a gingerbread house, treating your family to a batch of these gingerbread cookies should be a must every December. This recipe has been my family’s go-to since I was a tiny baker. Some of my earliest Christmas memories were spent around the dining table with my sisters and dad as we constructed the tastiest gingerbread house on the block. If you haven’t dedicated an entire December day to Christmas music and gingerbread baking while being elbow-deep in candy decorations, then you’re really missing out. But even if gingerbread house construction is just out of reach this year, you can opt for cookie-cutter gingerbread cookies instead. And dont forget that sturdy royal icing (recipe below)!  

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Gingerbread 

Ingredients

  • 6 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  •  1 tsp. salt
  • 4 tsp. ground ginger
  •  4 tsp. cinnamon
  •  1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  •  1 tsp. ground cloves
  •  1 cup unsalted butter, softened 
  •  1 cup sugar
  •  1 ¼ cup unsulphured molasses
  •  2 eggs
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Preheat oven to 375ºF. In a small bowl, thoroughly mix flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. In a large mixing bowl on medium speed, beat butter and sugar together until light and creamy. Mix in the molasses and eggs. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients. Turn mixture onto a lightly floured surface and roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Using either a cookie cutter or a gingerbread house template*, cut out cookies and place on a parchment paper or silat lined cookie sheet. Bake small cookies for 6-10 minutes; bake large cookies for 10-15 minutes. After baking, loosen gingerbread with a spatula to prevent sticking and allow to cool on the tray. After 10 minutes, transfer cookies to cooling rack and cool completely. 
Note: If you’re not going to use your gingerbread dough right away, place dough in an airtight container and refrigerate. Refrigerated dough will keep for a week. Be sure to remove the dough from the fridge 3 hours prior to rolling so it softens. 

Royal Icing

Yields 7 cups

Ingredients

  • 3 cups powdered sugar  plus more if needed 
  • 2 egg whites (about ¼ cup)
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract 
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar, salt, and cream of tartar. Set aside. In large bowl of stand mixer combine the egg whites and vanilla and beat until stiff peaks form. Add powdered sugar mixture gradually and mix on low speed until sugar is incorporated and mixture is shiny. Cover the bowl with a damp towel as you decorate your cookies so that the icing doesn’t dry out.
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*Print your gingerbread house template (there are hundreds available online) before baking your gingerbread house. Cut the gingerbread according to the template, bake, then re-cut using the template again to ensure straight and accurate measurements. This will create the secure framework for the house, safeguarding it against any disappointing collapses. 
 
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“Peanut Butter and Jelly” Crème Brûlée

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One of my favorite ways of finding inspiration for new recipes is taking classic, well-known foods and turning them into something unexpected. There are so many wonderful flavors out there, and even though the culinary world is growing faster than you can imagine, sometimes tried and true recipes are even better than the most elaborate or creative ones. And what’s simpler than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Still to this day, I have a soft spot for a good old PB&J. And because one of my wife’s favorite desserts is crème brûlée, I just had to play around with these two culinary classics.

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“Peanut Butter and Jelly” Crème Brûlée

Yields 5

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 tbsp. basic, creamy peanut butter, not old-fashioned or freshly ground (the oils will prevent the custard from setting properly)
  • ½ cup sugar, plus more for topping
  • 3 egg yolks
  • seedless red grapes
  • ¼ tsp. oil (avocado, coconut, canola, or vegetable)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Mix the egg yolks, sugar, and peanut butter together in small bowl. In saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the cream until frothy (but don’t let it boil).

At this point, you want to mix all the ingredients together — HOWEVER, pouring the hot cream over raw eggs could cause the eggs to curdle. Therefore, you’ll need to mix them together at a slow pace, “tempering” the eggs so that they don’t clump. Pour the cream, 1 tbsp at a time, into the bowl with the eggs, sugar, and peanut butter, stirring to incorporate after each addition of cream. Once you’ve stirred in about ¼ of the cream, add this peanut butter-cream mix back into the saucepan of warm cream and stir over low heat until the mixture thickens.

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Pour the mixture into small ramekins. Place the dishes in a large cake pan and pour water into the pan until it reaches halfway up the filled ramekins. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the crème brûlée is set. While they are baking, toss a small bunch of grapes in the oil and place in a toaster oven for 10-15 minutes, or until they are soft. When the grapes are roasted, take them out of the oven and lightly sprinkle them with sugar. Cool the crème brûlées for 1 hour before serving.

img_4424Once the crème brûlées are set and the grapes are roasted, lightly sprinkle the tops of the crème brûlée with sugar and torch until golden brown. (Small hand torches specifically for crème brûlée can be found at kitchen supply stores or online!) If you don’t have a crème brûlée torch, it’s also possible to use a toaster oven for this process. Turn the toaster oven on broil for 5 minutes, and pop the ramekins in for 1-2 minutes until the sugar caramelizes.

Serve with roasted grapes. You can also serve them with my Mulled Wine Biscotti!

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Fried Eggs

One of the first things I learned in culinary school was that the obnoxious tall white hats with the 100 pleats we wore represented the 100 different ways you can cook an egg. Toque_01b.jpg9f08a6c7-fb60-41f5-badf-e7197161d473Res200Something tells me that Marie-Antoine Carême (the father of French cuisine and reason the toque became the iconic piece of a chef’s uniform) would disagree, but it does make for an interesting fact to share with die-hard foodies. That being said, eggs are quite a big deal in the culinary world.

Another egg-citing thing they taught me in culinary school is that eggs are one of the toughest ingredients to “master”. With varying degrees of temperature, time, and finesse standing between you and that perfectly appetizing egg, it’s no wonder I had to spend weeks standing over a sauté pan with those yellow yolks staring up at me. Maybe they were right about those 100 egg recipes after all. But I’m happy to report that it’s actually not that difficult to cook an egg your favorite kind of egg. And my favorite way to eat them is sunny-side up.

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Golden runny yolk, unturned, and crispy underneath; a sunny-side up egg is great for breakfast, on a burger, over grilled asparagus, or on a salad. The yolk provides that luscious, velvety sauce without adding additional ingredients. (Thanks, American Heart Association, for taking the fear out of eating eggs!)

Fried Eggs

Yields one serving

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tbsp. avocado oil (or your favorite oil)
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Add oil to non-stick saucepan on medium-high heat. When oil is almost smoking (try the oil test from my tomato compote recipe!), add the two eggs. Add salt and pepper to the top. Cook for 1 ½ minutes, or until edges are brown and whites are opaque. Want over-easy or over-hard eggs? Cook eggs on one side for 1 minute, then turn over and cook for additional 30 seconds for over-easy, additional minute for over-hard.

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Weekend Breakfast

Heirloom cherry tomatoes, red onion, eggs, and herbs

I have always been a strong advocate for the “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” philosophy. Unfortunately I, like many others, don’t get the luxury of enjoying a gourmet breakfast during the week. Between early alarms, a three month old baby,  and attempting to make myself professionally presentable when I can barely open my eyes, my weekday breakfast typically consists of nothing more than oatmeal made in a matter of minutes that is washed down with as much coffee as digestively possible. That being said, when the weekend rolls around, breakfast becomes less of a means of fuel and more of an experience. I am my father’s daughter, after all: a devout “Sunday brunchist” whose area of worship was at the Sunday morning brunch buffet. Needless to say, we take breakfast seriously in my family. And to me, there is nothing better than eggs, fresh homemade sourdough, and seasonal roasted vegetables. Don’t get me wrong: I would never turn down pumpkin pancakes or croissant French toast with berry compote; but there really is nothing better than a few simple yet quality ingredients cooked in the comfort of my own kitchen as the sun comes up. (Yes, unfortunately I don’t sleep in on the weekends either. But at least there’s always coffee).

So here it is: my entrance into the blog stratosphere with my favorite “most important meal of the day.”

This recipe was created back when I was first dating my wife, and it has maintained its position at the top of the breakfast favorites list ever since. The beauty of this recipe lies in the crispy, sunny-side up eggs, homemade sourdough toast (recipe for sourdough starter and bread to come!!), and a chunky sauce made from roasted heirloom cherry tomatoes, caramelized onions, and herbs. What makes this seemingly simple dish so delicious is the use of those seasonal cherry tomatoes that pack a mighty punch of flavor when roasted.

Roasted Heirloom Tomato Compote

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Yields 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • ½ pint of cherry tomatoes, cut in quarters
  • ¼ red onion
  • ½ sprig of rosemary
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 4 tbsp. avocado oil or extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

‘Tis the season for tomatoes, so be on the lookout for heirloom ones! (Thanks, Mom, for the homegrown tomatoes!) Otherwise, cherry tomatoes from your local store will be just as delicious. Roast the quartered cherry tomatoes for 15 minutes in a 375°F oven (or on the toast setting in a toaster oven), until slightly browned on edges. I prefer to roast the tomatoes as opposed to just sautéing them in a pan. Roasting preserves the composition of the tomatoes and dries them out just enough so that the tomatoes create more of a chunky compote instead of sauce. Plus the browned edges elevate the final flavor even more.

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While the tomatoes roast, julienne the red onion and mince your herbs.

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In a saucepan, heat your oil on high heat until almost smoking. (Tip: throw a droplet or two of water into the oil to test the heat. If the oil spits back at you, it’s ready!) Turn down the heat to medium-low and add your onions, herbs, a few small pinches of salt, and black pepper to the pan and sauté, stirring constantly to avoid burning.

IMG_3123 As you slowly cook your onions, the sugars will begin to caramelize. In order to avoid burning the onions and keep that delicious “fond” (the brown buildup on the bottom of the pan), add a few tablespoons of water to deglaze the pan as needed. Don’t rush this step. The slower the onions cook, the more natural sugars are released.  The process does take time but the end result will produce a sweeter, melt-in-your-mouth texture. When the onions are brown and soft (10 minutes), add the balsamic vinegar. Cook for 1 minute, then turn off the burner and set aside.

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Once the tomatoes are roasted and the onions are caramelized, add the tomatoes and their juices to the sauté pan of onions. Turn the burner on low and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. This last step will bring all of the components together and reduce the juices to create a thick, slightly syrupy consistency.

The compote is ready to serve! Our compote is served with fried eggs and homemade sourdough toast.

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