SHAKSHUKA

Life changes are inevitable, and in my opinion very healthy experiences and something you can grow and learn from.  No, it’s never an easy thing, and some people are better at it than others, but in the end it mostly seems to be worth the stress and struggle.  All you can do sometimes is just sit back and enjoy the ride, and keep the positive juices flowing.

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There are lots of changes happening around me this month.  For one, the weather is hinting that spring is coming…finally.  But the biggest change is that in a couple of weeks, one of my best friends will no longer also be my roommate.  After almost a year and a half in the same apartment, Rachel is moving out and moving on, taking the next big step and moving in with her boyfriend.  I of course have bittersweet feelings since I will no longer be seeing her every day, but I couldn’t be happier for her new life.  She has taught me so much about cooking, introduced me to so many new foods (and cheeses!), and has been my partner in crime for exploring all of the amazing food my neighborhood has to offer.  And don’t worry, we will continue to share recipes and have foodie get-togethers as usual and as often as possible.  I will however miss our spontaneous weekend brunches the most, and so, Rachel, I toast this brunch to you.
Stay tuned for the next chapter of food creations.  Another close friend of mine is moving in, which I am very much looking forward to, and I have no doubt we will find just as many food adventures.  Like they say, when one door closes, another one opens.
Cheers!

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It was Rachel, in fact, who introduced me to this recipe and the cookbook it comes from, and I am so grateful for it.  For those who haven’t had the chance to try this cookbook, it’s full of recipes created by the cultural influences of two men who grew up in Jerusalem, one from the Arab side, the other from the Jewish side.  Every recipe has a unique and creative flair, and interesting ingredients and combinations.  Not to mention the pictures are GOR-geous. I highly recommend this cookbook as a staple in your kitchen.  Everything I’ve made from it has tasted so, so good, and this shakshuka recipe is no exception.
Though shakshuka could realistically be served for any meal, I love serving it to brunch guests at “Shelley’s Café” the most.  It’s a guaranteed hit every time, as people are always impressed with the dish.  Even better, it’s relatively easy to make and can be modified based on what seasonal vegetables you have.  Sounds like a perfect change to the menu, doesn’t it?

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SHAKSHUKA
(from Jerusalem: A Cookbook)
Serves: 2 to 4
Ingredients:
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. harissa (*see recipe notes)
2 tsp. tomato paste
2 large red bell peppers, diced into 1/4-inch cubes
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
5 large, very ripe tomatoes, chopped (5 cups in total); canned are also fine
4 large free-range eggs, plus 4 egg yolks (or 8 full eggs total)
1/2 cup greek yogurt
salt
2-8 slices white bread, olive bread, or pita, for dipping
Variations:
Eat seasonal – Try substituting eggplant or potatoes instead of tomatoes (although I think this version is the best)
*NOTE: The original recipe calls for 2 Tbsp. of harissa, but beware of how spicy your harissa paste is.  I suggest starting with less, and adding more if you can handle the heat.  You can find tubes of harissa near the tomato sauce and paste in the grocery store, or order it online.
Instructions:
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and add the harissa, tomato paste, peppers, garlic, cumin, and 3/4 tsp. salt.  Stir and cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes to allow the peppers to soften.
  2. Add the tomatoes, bring to a gentle simmer, and cook for a further 10 minutes until you have quite a thick sauce.  Taste for seasoning.
  3. Make 8 little dips in the sauce.  Gently break the eggs and carefully pour each into its own dip.  Do the same with the yolks.  Use a fork to swirl the egg whites a little bit with the sauce, taking care not to break the yolks.
  4. Simmer gently for 8 to 10 minutes, until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still runny (you can cover the pan with a lid if you wish to hasten the process).
  5. Remove from the heat, leave for a couple of minutes to settle, then spoon into individual plates and serve the yogurt and bread.
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