Beef & Lamb Meatballs with Tahini Sauce

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Santa-like jolliness is coursing through my veins like the buzz off a good mulled wine. Visions of cheese platters and frosted snowmen cookies prance around my brain and cloud my vision as I deal with every day “important” things like work, cat food (homemade, of course– what am I, a monster??), and health insurance (l’chaim, ObamaCare). Pandora has crafted the perfectly festive musical accompaniments, Deb is motivating me to be craftier, and ugly reindeer sweaters…well, they’re just a fact of life because there isn’t a fire vast enough to burn every last one.

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Kosheri: Middle Eastern Lentils and Rice

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I am in the throws of an intimate relationship with Ottolenghi. I take it to bed, fall asleep with it in my arms, and think about it when I’m strolling through my day. As much as I hate the use of this word to describe anything related to food–it sounds so damn pretentious and snobby– the book is approachable (ahh, there it is. And now you can hear the local sommelier going on some preachy diatribe about approachable tannins and relatable mouth feel..blah blah blah). But in all seriousness, Yotam Ottolenghi & Co simply deliver recipes and techniques from an unfamiliar culture to me in a way that excites and delights. So frequently I find cook books to be an exclusive conversation between a chef and his mirror, an arrogant array of feel-good notes about how great that sourdough starter was one time at band camp. I do not like that.
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Shakshuka

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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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