shakshuka with feta and Italian sausage

Shakshuka is comfort food. Originally from North Africa, the dish migrated to Israel where it became so popular it is practically the national dish. I was introduced to it while watching Somebody Feed Phil Tel Aviv on Netflix, when our intrepid host, Phil himself, sampled the dish at Dr. Shakshuka, said to be the best shakshuka in the city. The dish can be vegan; just leave out the cheese and the sausage, as it lends itself to endless variationsthere is even a green shakshuka. I think it is hearty enough without the feta and the sausage, but I had the feta and I live with an unreformed carnivore. So here we are.

Shakshuka with Feta and Italian Sausage

Yield: 4 servings

2 teaspoons good olive oil

1 small red onion, sliced into thin rings

2 large cloves garlic, minced

5 plum tomatoes, chopped

1 small sweet red bell pepper

250g Italian sausage, without the casings, crumbled

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon cumin

pepper flakes, to taste

Seasoning salt, to taste

Black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup feta, crumbled

4 eggs

Thick slices of crusty bread to mop up the sauce and the runny yolks

Heat the oil over medium heat in a 10-inch oven ready skillet, preferably non-stick. Lightly saute the onion until softened. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant. Cook the sausage until no longer pink. Add the peppers and tomatoes and cook until wilted. Add about 1/3 to 1/2 cup water to the skillet. Cook down the tomatoes and peppers until the sauce is thickened and reduces slightly, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 200˚C/400˚F.

Add the cumin and paprika. Add pepper flakes and seasoning salt to taste. Add black pepper. Stir and taste. Adjust seasoning if necessary. It’s best to under-salt the dish as the feta is salty. Remove from heat and stir in the feta.

Make 4 shallow depressions in the top of the shakshuka and break one egg into each well. If you break a yolk, no matter. Put the skillet in the oven and be sure to remove the silicone handle guard if your skillet has one. Bake until the eggs are just set, about 7-10 minutes, until the egg whites turn opaque but the yolks are still runny. The eggs are best when they are just cooked. If you like the yolks hard cooked, bake the shakshuka longer but the dish tastes sublime when the egg yolks run into the hot tomato sauce as you dip a slice of bread into them.

green eggs and ham for grown-ups

For supper tonight I made something light and whimsical: green eggs and ham. I know it sounds like kindergarten but this was something more grown up: crepes spiced up with Jamaican green seasoning (with scotch bonnet peppers). Inspired by the good doctor, Nigella Lawson came up with this wonderfully simple savory crepe with a thin slice of Swiss ham folded up inside. It’s the perfect brunch or light supper, Sam-I-Am.

Green Eggs and Ham (adapted from Nigella Lawson, Nigella Express)

Yield: 4 servings

30-75g spicy Jamaican green seasoning (can use pesto), season to taste

1 egg

75g all-purpose flour

150 ml whole milk (can use low-fat or non-fat milk instead)

2 tablespoons rice bran oil (can use vegetable oil)

4 extra-thin slices of Swiss ham

In a large bowl, mix together the green seasoning, egg, flour and milk. Whisk to completely combine the flour. Set aside

Over a medium flame, warm a 10-inch non-stick skillet or crepe pan.

Swirl a half- tablespoon of oil in the warm pan, and use a paper towel to wipe out the excess.

Remove the pan from the heat and ladle 100 ml of the batter into the pan. Swirl the batter around at once to completely cover the pan bottom. Re-place pan over medium heat and cook until the bottom is golden brown and lacy and the edges begin to pull away from the sides, about 60 seconds. Using a thin spatula, ease up the pancake and flip it over. Cook on the second side, about 30 seconds or until the bottom has golden brown spots.

Transfer the crepe to a large plate and cover it with a sheet of waxed paper. Prepare to make the rest of the crepes, layering waxed paper between each pancake.

When all the crepes are done, cover a crepe with a slice of ham and either roll it up or fold it into quarters as shown the picture. Serve with a small tomato-avocado lettuce salad drizzled with lime juice.

bobotie a South African shepherd’s pie+quiche

What is a shepherd’s pie + quiche but a “piche”? A bobotie is a cross between a shepherd’s pie and a quiche which aptly describes this dish from South Africa, with the savoury flavours of a shepherd’s pie and the silky eggy goodness of a quiche. Both are pies, to be sure, and the bobotie (boh-boh-tee?) gets its brilliant yellow hue from the turmeric and curry powder (I didn’t have garam masala). The spices, however, were balanced and flavourful without being overpowering. It was just too sweet to my liking (4 tablespoons of orange preserves. I didn’t have any apricot). And it was too salty for Andy–my adding salt was over compensation for the sweetness. I should have used lemon or lime juice to create some tart notes to balance the sweet and the salt.

Bobotie (adapted from Chef Aliya LeeKong, Food Network)

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Resting time: 10 minutes

Special Equipment: 2 quart oven-ready dish, large roasting pan with deep sides

Meat Filling:

1 slice white bread or brioche (I used multigrain bread)

2/3 cup milk (whole or low-fat)

2-3 tablespoons rice bran oil (can use vegetable)

1 large onion, finely chopped

Salt

1-2 green chilies, chopped (seeds removed, if desired)

1/2 to 1 teaspoon minced ginger (to taste)

3-4 large garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon each of turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander, paprika (hot or sweet, is up to you)

1/4 teaspoon each of cayenne pepper, ground garam masala (I used curry powder)

Freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 pounds ground meat or a mixture of beef, pork, and veal

2-4 tablespoons apricot or orange preserves

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 plum tomato, seeds removed, coarsely chopped

Egg Custard:

4 eggs beaten

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream (I used 3/4 cup milk + 2 tablespoons cornstarch)

Large pinch of salt

Scallions, sliced, for garnish (optional)

Heat oven to 350˚F/175˚C. Adjust the oven rack to the middle of the oven.

Place bread in a small bowl and pour in 2/3 cup of milk. Let sit until ready to used. Turn to coat both sides. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil, onions, chilies, ginger, and a light sprinkling of salt to draw out the water. Sauté 4-5 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add garlic and spices and saute 30 seconds until you can smell the garlic. If the garlic begins to brown, add 1 tablespoon water.

Increase heat to medium high and push the vegetables to one side of the skillet or wok. If the pan is very dry, add the remaining tablespoon of oil. Brown the ground meat, 3-4 minutes, breaking up the large pieces as it cooks. Add 2 tablespoons of the preserves, vinegar, and tomato. Be cautious adding the preserves. Taste. If not sweet enough to your taste, add more. Season with salt. Lower heat and simmer, uncovered, 15-20 minutes for flavours to develop. Taste and adjust seasoning. I added a dash of fish sauce for the umami. Off the heat and let cool.

Wring out the excess milk from the bread, crumble it over the meat mixture. Mix in thoroughly. Taste, and if necessary, season again. Instead of adding more preserves or salt, add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice and taste. See how it tastes, then add more preserves and salt, but be moderate. Scrape meat mixture into a 2 quart baking dish. Smooth the top and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine 4 eggs, 3/4 cup cream or milk, 2 tablespoons cornstarch (if using milk) and a pinch of salt. Whisk vigorously to incorporate the cornstarch, if using. Pour the egg mixture on top of the meat mixture. No need to mix it in. Put the dish inside the roasting pan. It should fit with enough space around all sides. Put the pan in the oven and carefully pour hot water around the dish until it comes halfway up the sides of the baking dish.

Bake 25-30 minutes or until the custard is just set. It shouldn’t be liquid in the middle; but it should jiggle a bit in the center. Take the pan out of the oven and let the bobotie sit in the water bath 10 minutes to firm up after baking. Remove the baking dish from the water bath and cool slightly. Sprinkle sliced scallions on top if you wish. Spoon it out onto a plate and eat with a large green salad, and some chopped chilies if your partner likes bobotie with his chilies.

egg foo young is such a comfort

Sometimes you just want comfort food. No surprise there at all! I love Chinese-American food with all its junk-food associations–deep-fried, oily, salty, sweet and sour. Yum. But I never liked the texture of traditional egg foo young because the eggs were dry and the gravy was semi-gelatinous. So here is my version, cooked up like a cross between an omelette and a frittata. NO GRAVY. Just a sprinkling of Maggi seasoning. This recipe will make two egg foo young.

5 eggs

2 tablespoons neutral oil, e.g. rice bran, canola, peanut

filling: your choice of slivered shiitake mushrooms, soaked and drained softened bean threads, shredded cooked meat, shredded cabbage, shredded carrot, chopped celery, minced garlic, bean sprouts, and salt and pepper to taste

Make the filling first. Stir fry the ingredients until cooked. Chinese cooks start with the ingredients that take the longest to cook, so in a little oil heated in a large skillet, drop in the garlic and fry until fragrant. Then add the cabbage, carrots and mushrooms. When they wilt, add the bean threads and cook until transparent. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook until heated through and the bean sprouts wilt. Taste. Add salt and pepper. Set aside to cool slightly.

Whisk the eggs in a bowl until well-mixed. Heat a dry 10-inch skillet over medium heat. When hot add the oil. Heat oil until it gently shimmers. Pour half a soup ladle of egg into the hot oil. Using a spatula, shape it into a circle. When almost set, add a cupful of the filling to the center of the egg omelette. Ladle another half of a soup ladle of egg on top, folding the edges, which have set over the edges of the filling until it looks like a purse. It will not cover the filling entirely. Gently flip the omelette over to let the top cook. Once the top has set, flip the omelette over onto the first side to brown it. Then back again to brown the second side. That’s it! Egg foo young the way I like it. Soft like scrambled egg, a savoury filling, all warm in my tummy. Now make another omelette, for your love, certainly.

Serve it with fluffy white rice. In lieu of that, I made a rice cake out of leftover sticky rice, basted it with a teriyaki-mirin sauce, and grilled it. And on the side, a fresh salad with avocado and tomato lightly drizzled with a mustard vinaigrette.

PS The filling, if leftover, will make spring rolls or egg rolls, whichever you prefer. The filling here is leftover from my foray into home made egg roll skins. For another posting.

egg foo young with sauce

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Egg Foo Young is a comfort food staple of American-style Chinese food. A Chinese frittata, this egg-y concoction is filled with cabbage, onions, shiitake mushrooms, and Chinese sausage, then drizzled with a tangy ginger-garlic-soy sauce. I like this recipe because it does not use much oil nor require deep-frying.

Egg Foo Young (adapted from the Spruce Eats)
Yield: 10-inch frittata

For the Sauce:
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ginger, minced
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon Shaoxing Rice Wine/dry sherry
Dash sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 4 teaspoons water

Make the sauce. Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a small pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger, and stir. Stir in the soy sauce, rice wine or sherry, and sesame oil. Turn up the heat a little and add the cornstarch mixture, stirring until thickened. Set aside.

For the Egg Foo Young
6 dried shiitake mushrooms
1/4 to 1/2 cup cabbage, shredded
1/4 cup onion, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup mung bean sprouts, optional
1 Chinese sausage
5 large eggs
Salt and Pepper
2-3 teaspoons Shaoxing Rice Wine/dry sherry
2 tablespoons rice bran oil or a neutral oil
2 scallions, sliced diagonally, optional

Make the egg foo young. Soak the mushrooms in hot water until softened. Put a small bowl or plate on top of the mushrooms to keep them submerged in the hot water, 15 minutes. When they soften, squeeze out the excess water, cut off the stem and discard, and slice the cap into strips. Set aside.

Rinse and drain the cabbage and mung bean sprouts, if using. Set aside. Chop the sausage on the diagonal and set aside. Cut the onion into thin slices and set aside. In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a little salt and pepper, and the rice wine or sherry. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, lightly stir fry the cabbage until softened and wilted. Add the bean sprouts, it using, and cook until just wilted, about 1 minute. Remove and cool slightly, then add to the eggs. To the remaining oil in the pan, stir fry the sausage and onions until lightly browned. Remove and cool slightly. Then add to the egg mixture. Cook the mushrooms for a minute. If more oil is needed, add a teaspoon to the pan. Remove mushrooms and cool slightly. Add to the egg mixture.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet and heat it over medium heat. When it is hot, scrape the egg mixture into the pan. Turn down the heat to medium-low. Re-arrange the fillings so they are evenly distributed. Cover the egg foo young and let the eggs set around the edges, 2-3 minutes. Using a silicone spatula, go around the edges to release the eggs. Cover and cook until the center is somewhat set–it shouldn’t be liquid, about 5-8 minutes. Remove the cover and put a large plate over the skillet. Holding the skillet handle with your dominant hand, and covering the top of the plate with the other hand, invert the skillet and the plate. The egg foo young will drop out onto the plate. Put the skillet back on the heat source, turn it up to medium, and slide the egg foo young into the skillet to brown the top, 3-5 minutes.

Slide the egg foo young onto a large plate. If the sauce is cold, reheat. Drizzle the warmed sauce over the top and sprinkle with scallions, if using.

eggs benedict breakfast salad

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A lighter caloric version of eggs benedict, heavy on the salad, with a lemony dressing instead of Hollandaise sauce, and half a slice of toasted homemade multigrain bread standing in for the traditional English muffin. In keeping with the spirit of cooking while quarantined, I made substitutions for whatever was available in my pantry.

Eggs Benedict Breakfast Salad (adapted from Food Network)
Total: 30 minutes
Yield: 2 servings

Splash of white vinegar for poaching the eggs
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (for white wine vinegar)
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 small onion, sliced thinly
5 oz pork jerky cut into 2-4 inch strips (instead of bacon)
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Zest and juice of ½ lemon
2 tablespoons plain, lowfat yogurt
1 teaspoon sugar, optional
5 ounces mixed greens
½ cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 thick slice of multigrain bread, cut in half (for the English muffin)
2 large eggs

Fill a medium pot with 3-inches of water and a hefty splash of vinegar. Bring to a low simmer—you will see large bubbles around the bottom and sides of the pot.

In a 10-inch nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the onions, jerky, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions wilt and the jerky is heated through. Remove from heat and let cool.

Make the dressing. In an 8-oz glass jar with a screw top lid, put the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, ½ the lemon zest and juice, yogurt, 1 tablespoon water, ¼ teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar, if desired, to balance the flavors. Screw on the lid and shake to combine. Taste. If needed, add more zest, vinegar, salt, or sugar. The dressing can be made a day before. Shake well before serving.

Crack 1 egg into a ramekin. Swirl the simmering water with a silicone spatula. Slide the egg into the middle of the swirl. Cook 3 minutes for runny yolk, 4-5 minutes for jammy yolk. Remove the egg with a slotted spoon or spider, and let it drain on a paper towel. Repeat with the second egg.

In a large bowl, toss the greens, tomatoes, onion-jerky mixture, and 3 tablespoons of the dressing. Add salt to taste. Divide between two bowls.

Toast the bread and cut it in half. Garnish each salad with an egg and a half-slice of bread. If desired, sprinkle salt and a few grinds of pepper.

spinach-potato crustless quiche

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Though the spinach and potato are the stars of this crustless quiche, they wouldn’t be stars if it weren’t for the garlic, feta cheese, onion, and herbs. They work their magic to make this egg pie the tastiest ever.

Spinach-Potato Crustless Quiche
Prep time: 20 minutes
Bake time: 25 minutes
Servings: 6-8

Ingredients:
1 bunch fresh spinach, chopped
1 medium potato, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup onions, chopped
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon rosemary
1/2 cup (2.5 oz) crumbled feta
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup fat free milk
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp salt
fresh cracked pepper to taste
cooking spray
Sriracha sauce

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Lightly spray a 9 inch pie dish with cooking spray. Cut spinach into 2 inch lengths.

Heat olive oil in a large dutch pot. When the oil is hot, add the spinach and cook it down until it is bright green and slightly wilted. Remove from heat and drain any excess water. When cool enough to handle, coarsely chop the spinach. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, boil 2 cups water with a little salt. Cook the potatoes until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Mix spinach, potatoes, onions, garlic, oregano, rosemary, feta cheese and Parmesan cheese in a large bowl.

Sift flour and baking powder in the workbowl of a food processor. Add milk, beaten eggs, salt, pepper, to flour mixture in the bowl. Process until well blended.

Combine flour mixture with spinach mixture, and mix well. Scrape into pie dish.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until knife comes out clean when pierced near the center. Let it stand at least 5 minutes before serving. Serve with sriracha sauce.

breakfast bird’s nest

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Bird’s Nest

6 large eggs
12 slices Canadian bacon
white pepper to taste
1 stalk scallion, chopped fine
Sriracha sauce for serving

Preheat the oven 350˚F/180˚C.

Slit each slice of bacon 1 inch from the edge towards the center. Place one slice of bacon in one cup of a six-cup muffin tin, slit edges on the bottom. Overlap the slit edges so that the bacon slice fits the cup. The top of the bacon should stick up slightly over the top of the muffin cup. Place another slice of bacon in the same cup overlapping the slit edges to fit. Repeat.

Crack open an egg into each cup lined with two Canadian bacon slices. Sprinkle a little white pepper to taste in each cup—salt is not necessary. Sprinkle some scallion on top of each egg.

Bake in the oven 10-15 minutes—ten for a runny yolk, 15 for well-done. Using a thin blade, ease around the edge of each nest and scoop out of the muffin tin. Serve hot with Sriracha sauce.

savory egg pudding

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savory egg pudding

A cross between a crustless quiche and an egg pie, this savory pudding has a mild herbal flavor and a delicate custard-like consistency. Parboiling or pre-cooking the potatoes is an important first step in ensuring that the potatoes cook at the same time the egg custard sets.

Savory Egg Pudding (adapted from Chowhound)
Prep time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes
Resting time: 20 minutes

Ingredients
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup half-and-half (half cup milk and half cup heavy cream)
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 cup heavy cream
salt
white pepper
2 medium potatoes, thinly sliced (can be peeled or not)
2 tablespoons finely chopped tarragon
2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped dill
2 tablespoons unsalted butter plus more to grease the pan
2 medium leeks, halved lengthwise and then sliced crosswise, white and pale green parts only
2-4 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1. Put the oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375˚F/200˚C. Grease a 2 quart baking dish generously with butter and set aside.

2. In a blender jar, combine the flour, half of the half-and-half, the eggs, and the egg yolk. Pulse several times until smooth. Add the remaining half and half and the cream. Season well with salt and white pepper to taste. Pulse to combine. Set aside.

3. Slice the potatoes thinly with a mandoline. Put potatoes in a large pan of boiling salted water and cook for 2-3 minutes or until just tender. Drain the potatoes and put them in a large bowl. Add the chopped tarragon, parsley, and dill. Season with salt and white pepper. Toss to coat.

4. In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Sauté the leeks and the garlic 5-6 minutes or until wilted. Mix the cooked leeks with the potatoes and herbs. Season with additional salt and pepper. Evenly spread the potato mixture in the prepared baking dish and then pour the egg mixture on top.

5. Bake until the egg custard is puffy and golden. It should set in about 30-35 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven. Let the pudding rest 20 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature with a few twists of Himalayan pink salt and black peppercorns.

breakfast egg muffins

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1 1/2 cups mashed potatoes
3/4 cup ham, 1” dice
5-7 eggs with milk topped up to 1 3/4 cup mark
3 stalks scallion, chopped fine
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Sriracha Sauce for serving, optional

Preheat oven to 350˚F/175˚C

Mash potatoes and add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. Whisk eggs and milk; add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Line muffin tin with cupcake liners or spray the cups generously with cooking spray.

Drop 1-2 tablespoons potatoes in a muffin cup. Spread it around and flatten it. Fill all other muffin cups. Bake 15 minutes or until potatoes turn golden at the edges. Cool slightly. Don’t turn off the oven.

Put 3-4 diced ham on top of potatoes in each muffin cup. Fill to the top with the egg-milk mixture. Sprinkle scallions and thyme on top.
Bake 15 minutes. The eggs will dome in the oven but deflate once you take them out. A pity!

To serve, loosen the edges of each cup with a sharp thin blade and scoop out the contents. Eat with Sriracha sauce, if desired.

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