Shakshuka

Never heard of it? Neither had I. But that is one of the many beauties of the internet— visual aids that provide us with the pretty pretty pictures we need in order to become interested. “This book has no pictures. Ergo, this book is a waste of space.”

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Shakshuka is a popular Israeli dish that has North African-roots. Eggs are poached in a spicy tomato sauce and served with pita. I saw some variations during my research that got creative with the vegetables and various cheeses, but overall: this is very, very easy and delightful. Most people have the basics on hand– canned tomatoes, eggs, onion, garlic, etc, so if you’re interested in a simple, healthy breakfast option, then I advise you to keep reading.

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I’ve been dabbling in homemade ricotta recently and found it to work beautifully in shakshuka. Some of it sort of melted into the sauce, but big chunks remained intact and were perfect for scooping up on the bread. My intention was to share this batch of cheese with my neighbors, but…that isn’t going to happen. Piggie has taken over my body and won’t let the concept of generosity interfere with my cheesy feeding frenzy.

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Shakshuka

3 T olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, diced fine
2 anaheim peppers, diced fine
2 carrots, diced fine
2 t paprika
1 t cumin
2 T tomato paste
2 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes
1 t sugar
2 t salt
pepper
7 eggs
1 c ricotta cheese (feta would also be quite nice)
flat leaf parsley
pita (or naan) for serving

In a large cast iron skillet or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium high. When hot, add the oil. Toss in the onion, garlic, pepper, and carrot, and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add spices and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, and sugar. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, until reduced– about 10 minutes. One at a time, crack the eggs into a ladle. Push the ladle into the sauce to create a hole for the egg, turning it out into the sauce. Do this for all 7 eggs. With sauce on a low simmer, cover and cook 10-15 minutes. Add cheese a few minutes before eggs are set (sprinkle over the top– don’t mix in). Eggs may be a bit soft, but they will continue to cook in the sauce. Turn off heat and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with warm pita (I wanted garlic naan instead, which was great) and enjoy!

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Tomato and Balsamic Frittata

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I just ate half a bag of cheese crunchies. Which emptied the contents completely, because I did the same thing last night this morning. This is why, people. This is why I’m not allowed to be alone with tasty treats. They call to me. I actually hear little powdered-dairy voices echoing in my head saying things like “You know you want it” and “Everything tastes as good as skinny feels” and “Just cave already! Eat your feelings! Nom!” And yes– they actually do get angrier the longer I hold out, until I cave under the pressure and eat THE WHOLE DANG BAG.

But moving on from crazy town and into actual, adult conversation….

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I had to do something healthy for myself after the cheese debacle (I did donate a bag of brownies to a neighbor and trashed the rest of the crunchy population residing in my cabinets), so dove into my vegetable drawer and came up with something that didn’t make me feel like a teenage headcase mourning over the loss of a bag of potato chips. Pathetic!

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Tomato and Chard Frittata

2 cups cherry tomatoes, washed
1 shallot, diced fine
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
1 t salt
pepper
1 T olive oil
2 c roughly chopped chard
4 eggs, beaten with 1 T milk
1/3 c shredded or chunked Parmesan Gouda or Cotija or goat cheese
1/4 c fresh basil, sliced thin

In a large bowl, combine the shallot, garlic, vinegar, salt, and pepper and mix well. Cut the tomatoes in half and add to the bowl. You can use larger tomatoes, but you will need to seed them or else there will be too much liquid in the pan. Toss the mixture and set aside to marinate for up to 1 hour. In a large pan heat the oil over medium-high and add the tomato mixture. Cook for a few minutes and then add the chard, stirring to cover everything with the vinegar. Cook this down for a few minutes, or until the liquid is reduced to a syrup-like consistency. Do not over cook– no longer than 5-7 minutes. Add the beaten eggs and turn heat down to medium-low. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the eggs are mostly set. Sprinkle the cheese over the top and cover for another 5 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove from heat, sprinkle with the basil, and serve immediately. Great with garlic toast!

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Baked Eggs in Crispy Hash Brown Nests

Here I am again with potatoes. My old friend. Loyal. Beautiful. Delicious. It’s hard to say no to something this sexy.

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Am I right? Can I get an AMEN?

And what better friend to pair with potatoes than an egg? There is no partnership in the universe that can top this dynamic duo (although Bert and Ernie do a damn fine job of trying).

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A crispy bed of hash browns, cheesy filling, and soft baked eggs make this a wonderfully indulgent breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, etc. The filling is really the key here– it nicely ties together the egg and hash browns with a salty kick from the Gruyere and a sweet slap in the face from the caramelized shallots.

Be sure to wring out your potatoes well to get out as much moisture as possible, or else you’ll have soggy nests. Yum. Soggy. A great word to use when describing food.

Baked Eggs in Crispy Hash Brown Nests
1.5 lbs Russet potatoes
4 T melted butter
4 oz cream cheese
1 c shredded Gruyere
1/3 c milk
6 shallots, diced fine
1 T butter
12 -15 eggs
1/4 c cream
Pepper
Red pepper flakes
Chives

You can either make this recipe into 18 egg nests or 12 nests and 1 small ramekin, about 6″ diameter (I chose the latter). Grease your pan of choice.

In a skillet over medium-low heat, melt the 1 T butter. When hot, add the diced shallots and reduce heat to low after 2 minutes. Continue cooking slowly over low heat for about 45 minutes, or until very soft and brown. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 425. Scrub and peel the potatoes, then shred them in a food processor or with a box grater. You should have about 4-5 cups. Place into a dishtowel or cheese cloth and wring out over your sink. This is best done in smaller batches, to maximize the moisture expulsion. Mix the shredded potatoes with melted butter and press into your greased pans so that you have an even wall of potatoes up the sides and on the bottom of your nests. Bake at 425 for 30-35 minutes or until brown.

Reduce the oven temperature to 375. When the shallots are good and caramelized, place them in a bowl with the cream cheese, red pepper flakes, pepper, milk, and Gruyere.  Mix thoroughly. Spoon a tablespoon of the mixture onto the baked nests and smoosh down to flatten (for the larger ramekin I used about 1/2 c). Crack an egg into each nest (2-3 for the ramekin), spoon about a teaspoon of cream onto each one, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the eggs are set (ie, they don’t jiggle when you shake the pan). Cool for 5 minutes, run a knife around the edge of each one, and then lift carefully onto plates. Sprinkle with more pepper and the chives, then serve immediately.

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