Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Looking for a quick weeknight meal that’s just as fun to say as it is to eat?  Well for me that would be Shakshuka!  Shakshuka (also spelled Shakshouka) is a dish of which eggs are poached in tomatoes, peppers, onions and spices.  It has ties to the Middle East and North Africa.  Say it again…Shakshuka...Sooo fun!

Even though Shakshuka is so quick and easy to put together, it feels like an utterly indulgent dish because it’s so darned flavorful.  Be sure to get some good bread drizzled with a little olive oil and toasted to sop up all that deliciousness. 

You can make the sauce for Shakshuka in advance, just be sure to reheat it before adding the eggs.  If the sauce goes into the oven cold either the sauce will be cold and the eggs cooked perfect; or the sauce will be hot and the eggs over cooked.  

Shakshuka is also a terrific dish to serve for brunch; you can leave it rustic by serving the egg dish straight from the skillet, or make it fancy by using gratin dishes. 

Last time, I promise…Shakshuka…that just doesn’t get old! 

 Here's what you do.

 Pre heat oven to 375 degrees.

Saute the onions in olive oil, in a medium sized oven proof skillet.

When the onions are translucent and have a little color too them add the bell pepper and the smashed garlic.  I like the garlic whole so that the dish to be over powered by it.

When the bell peppers have softened, add the canned tomatoes and its juices, canned tomato juice, sugar, paprika, bay leaf, salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer this for about 10 minutes.

Use the back of a spoon to create a divot in the sauce and crack the eggs into each divot.  The recipe calls for 4 eggs, but Billy wanted two and  I only wanted one egg for dinner; if you want 5 eggs have at 'er.

Cook in the hot oven just until the eggs have set, 5 to 8 minutes.  Serve with a salad and same good toasted bread for sopping up the sauce.


Serves 2

2              Tbsp.      Olive oil
½                          Medium onion, sliced
½                          Red bell pepper, cut into strips
2              cloves     Garlic, smashed
1              cup         Diced canned tomatoes and juices
¼             cup        Tomato juice, from a can
½             tsp.        Sugar
½             tsp.        Sweet paprika
1                           Bay leaf
                             Salt and pepper to taste
4                           Eggs

   1.       Pre heat the oven to 375 degrees.
   2.       Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium sized, oven proof skillet.  Add the onions and sauté until the onions are translucent and just beginning to brown.
   3.       When the onions are slightly browned, add the red bell pepper and smashed garlic to the skillet.  Cook until the bell peppers have softened.
   4.       Add the diced tomatoes and its juices, canned tomato juice, sugar, paprika, bay leaf, salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes.
   5.       Remove the skillet from the heat.  Make a divot in the sauce with a spoon and crack an egg into it; repeat with the remaining eggs.
   6.       Put the skillet into the oven and cook until the eggs are set; 5 to 8 minutes.

Serve Shakshuka with a salad, and good toasted bread.

*Note; Shakshuka can be made in individual gratin dishes.  Place the cooked sauce in the bottom of each gratin dish, crack two eggs over the sauce, and bake for 5 to 8 minutes.
**You can prepare the sauce for the Shakshuka in advance but be sure to reheat the sauce before adding the eggs. 

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Monday, February 25, 2013


Do you know about quinoa?  It’s an ancient grain that has really been making a comeback just in the last 10 years or so.  Just from reading the back of the package I see that quinoa is a great vegetarian source of protein and fiber; as well as iron, calcium, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, and phosphorus.

Quinoa has a slightly nutty flavor that plays well as a pilaf, or in salads.  It is important to rinse the quinoa before cooking, however, or that nutty flavor will be taken over by bitterness… There ain’t nobody who likes bitter quinoa!

I actually had a request on the Twitter from Javier for a quinoa recipe.  I am only too happy to oblige Javier!

This Mushroom Quinoa is very versatile.  I used tarragon which has a slight licorice flavor, but you could also use parsley, thyme or rosemary.  Enjoy Mushroom Quinoa as a side dish, as a main dish with a salad, or as a stuffing for chicken, peppers, or zucchini.

Here’s what you do.

This recipe uses both dried and fresh mushrooms.  The dried mushrooms bring a more intense, earthy, mushroom flavor to the dish.  Hydrate the dried mushrooms with some boiling water.  I buy a large container of dried mushrooms at Costco; it's much more cost effective than buying the small packets of dried mushrooms at the grocery store.
Rinse the quinoa under cold running water.  This helps to remove and bitter flavor.

Saute the fresh mushrooms in olive oil over medium-high heat.

When the mushrooms have browned, add the shallots, garlic, and a pinch of salt & pepper.  Cook stirring for 2 to 3 minutes; until the shallots are translucent.

Remove the cooked mushrooms to a bowl.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the now hydrated, dried mushrooms to the same bowl as the cooked mushrooms.  Save 1/2 cup of the soaking liquid from the dried mushrooms; be careful to not pour any sediment into the measuring cup.

Melt a tablespoon of butter in the same pan that you cooked the mushrooms in and toast the quinoa for about 5 minutes over medium heat.
When the quinoa has toasted add to the pan, the soaking liquid from the mushrooms, the vegetable or chicken broth...

...And a tablespoon of soy sauce.  I use low sodium.

Once the quinoa comes up to a low boil add the mushrooms back into the pot and reduce the heat to medium low.  Taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper if needed.  Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the liquid has been absorbed.

Chop up some fresh tarragon and stir it into the cooked quinoa.  Tarragon has a herbaceous, licorice flavor which I love with mushrooms.  If you don't love tarragon, add some chopped fresh parsley or some dried rosemary or thyme instead.  If you go with the dried herbs, you will add them into the cooked mushrooms at the same time as the shallots and garlic.

Mushroom Quinoa is super versatile; it goes great with chicken, pork, beef or lamb.


Serve 4 as a side dish

1/3           cup         Dried mushrooms
2/3           cup         Boiling water
1              cup         Quinoa
8              oz.          Fresh Mushrooms, sliced
2              Tbsp.       Olive oil
1                            Shallot, minced
2              cloves      Garlic, minced
                             Salt and pepper to taste
1              Tbsp.       Butter
1 ½          cups        Vegetable or chicken stock; low or no sodium
1              Tbsp.       Light soy sauce
             Tbsp.       Fresh Tarragon, chopped

  1.        In a small bowl, pour the boiling water over the dried mushrooms; set to the side.
  2.       In a fine mesh strainer, rinse the quinoa under cold, running water.  This removes any bitterness.
  3.       Add the fresh mushrooms and olive oil to a 3 quart sauce pan, cook, stirring occasionally over medium high heat until the mushrooms have browned.
  4.       Add the shallots, garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper; cook stirring for about 2 minutes, until the shallots are translucent.
  5.       Remove the cooked mushroom mixture to a bowl.
  6.       Use a slotted spoon to remove the dried mushrooms from the water.  Give the dried mushrooms a rough chop, and add them to the same bowl as the cooked mushroom mixture.  Pour ½ cup of the soaking liquid from the dried mushrooms into a measuring cup, being careful not to pour any of the residue that had settled in the bottom of the bowl.  Set to the side.
  7.       Melt a tablespoon of butter over medium heat to the same pan, add the quinoa.  Toast the quinoa for about 5 minutes, stirring often.
  8.       Add the reserved ½ cup of soaking liquid from the mushrooms, the vegetable or chicken stock, and the soy sauce to the quinoa.  Bring the liquid up to a low boil.
  9.       Stir in the mushrooms and turn the heat down to medium low to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes; until the liquid has been absorbed.  When the quinoa is done, the grains will be translucent and the outer germ layer will separate.
  10.   Remove from the heat and stir in the fresh tarragon.

Serve with chicken, steak, pork or lamb.

*Note, ½ teaspoon of dried rosemary or thyme may be substituted for the fresh tarragon.  Add dried herbs to the mushrooms in step 4.