Shakshuka

Shakshuka 3

Shakshuka – Tunisian eggs baked in tomatoes – seems to be a divisive dish. Either you love it or hate it. It’s like the Hillary Clinton of recipes and everyone’s got an opinion. I, for the record, LOVED this recipe. And also Hillary Clinton. But mostly, this recipe, because it was spicy, kinda weird, and the easiest thing in all the land to make.

Le Fiance…not so much. Though, much like his political beliefs, he’s a middle of the road man. Didn’t love it, but definitely didn’t hate it. Went searching for a third party candidate, which he found – in the form of ice-cream.

Normally, I too, would rather eat ice-cream than a North African dish. Not because I believe in the less-ness of North African food, mind you. I just don’t like it. Tunisian, Ethiopian, Eritrean and other North African cuisines are often known for the addition of egg where, to my American palate, egg does not belong. I am also weird about eggs. There! I said it.

What I’ve realized, however, is that a lot of people (Americans) think of AFRICA! as this magical place that still looks like The Jungle Cruise in Disney Land, and that everyone must be eating the same thing, the whole continent over, and that thing must taste weird and they probably won’t like it. If you have ever tried Ethiopian food and didn’t like it, you would probably think that, too, and then cease eating food from any part of Africa. I knew someone like that for a long time. Her name rhymed with Schmilary.

But then I went to Africa and had to eat. For quite awhile. And in East Africa, I had some of the most wonderful food experiences of my life. In Tanzania, it was all mchele na maharage (rice and beans) all the time. Unless you decided to treat yourself by ordering chipsi mayai (fried eggs over french fries) and that, my friends, was always a very happy day. Simple foods that sustain. Plus, french fries. How can you not?

To contrast: France. Center of the gastro republique. I was recently in Saint-Louis and ordered a martini rouge, thinking it would be some delicious berry-flavored martini. What I received was a glass of vermouth that tasted astonishingly of mushrooms. It was awful, and an awful food experience was something I thought impossible in tres chic France. The other awful thing? My grasp of the French language. Note to self: stick with wine.

All of this is to say, both travel and cooking are so interesting because of the beautiful cultural collisions that happen most often around a table. We can learn so much about another country, its history and its people, simply by eating its food. And then you can decide if you like it or not. Because – NEWS FLASH – it’s okay not to like stuff.

In the same way that my Czech friend thinks our American propensity for smoothies is disgusting (“You smooth everything! Spinach is smoothie! How ick!” – direct quote from Czech friend), I think drinking a full glass of mushroom vermouth is tres ick, or mixing eggs into things where eggs should not be mixed is ick.

Until, that is, I made shakshuka. Picture this: fried eggs with delicious runny yolks. Fiery tomato sauce with a hint of smoke and a hefty kapow! of spice. Cheese. Oh! And more cheese. And fresh basil on top, but let’s be honest – the basil is the pretty-maker, the greenery that adds contrast in food photos. The basil is wholly unnecessary, as far as I’m concerned, because hi. CHEESE. Though it maketh my stomach hurt, it amazeth me, cheese.

We ate it for dinner, but in my heart of hearts, I believe this to be a breakfast dish because that’s where eggs belong. Also, I’d LOVE to pair this with a large cup of coffee.

If you like eggs, tomato, spice and feeling adventurous, you will like this dish. Or maybe you won’t. But as my mom always said, “It doesn’t matter if you like it. It matters that you try it.”

And if all else fails…there’s always ice-cream.

 SHAKSHUKA

 Ingredients:

. 2 tablespoons olive oil

. 1/2 medium onion diced finely (I do mine in the food processor)

. 4 cloves of garlic

. 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (normal okay too!)

. 1 teaspoon cumin

. 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

. 1/4 cup white wine

. One 15 ounce can of crushed tomatoes (spiced or not)

. One yellow bell pepper (diced)

. 6 eggs

. 1/4 cup of half and half

. Fresh basil

. S&P to taste, plus goat cheese for the top

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 425. Then, heat EVOO in a large skillet and add onions. Cook them until they’re lovely and translucent. If you have a large cast iron skillet, you can do everything in it! Lucky you! If you are not so lucky as to be in possession of a large cast iron skillet YET (come on wedding registry!) then you will have to do some transferring.

2. Press in four garlic cloves, stir, then add paprika, cumin, pepper flakes and a pinch of salt. Cook on medium for another two-ish minutes.

3. Once things are mixed and fragrant and the bell pepper has softened up, add the wine and cook down until the liquid is reduced. This should take another two minutes or so.

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4. Add tomatoes and increase the heat until your dish begins to boil. Not a rolling boil exactly (one of cooking’s most disgusting phrases) but a gentle boil, just up-tempo of a simmer, if you will. Do this simmering for about eight minutes, so things can absorb.

5. If you don’t have a cast iron, transfer the whole mixture into a glass baking dish (or small dutch oven) If you have a cast iron skillet, please forget we ever had this talk and proceed directly to number 6.

6. Turn off the heat and crack your six eggs directly on top of the sauce. It looks weird and a little gross, but you can do it. Then, crumble a little goat cheese over the top of the eggs (again, strange, I know) and then pour the half and half on top of THAT. You can use as much goat cheese as you like. We, the lactose-intolerant, treat goat cheese with a light hand, but you do you. Trust me, whatever you do, just put that sucker in the oven because it starts to look really gross. See?

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7. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the eggs set. If you don’t like your eggs too “eggy” (meaning runny, I guess?) then let them go for a bit longer. If you like ‘em running like they’re in a half marathon, take them out at 15 on the dot.

8. Chiffonade some basil and top with parm or more goat cheese. We ate ours with hearty slices of this bread, as you probably could have imagined.

 

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SO WEIRD AND DELISH.

 

Menu Planning – March 17

Our menu a few weeks ago was a real winner, if I do say so myself. It’s helpful to plan your menus around something, to save on ingredients and to make sure you don’t waste anything. This week, I realized that I’d pinned quite a few recipes that called for tomatoes and basil, so it made sense to group them together this week and buy a lot of both. Once we got to Berkeley Bowl and saw the heirloom tomatoes, it was really easy to execute on this bad boy. Also, any week that involves a lot of tomatoes and basil is a good week. Add dark chocolate + wine and that’s pretty much all you need to eat ever again. You heard it here first!

The other tip from this week is to make at least one dish that will freeze well. This particular week, it was the enchiladas. Le fiancé is an excellent cook, but it’s hard to cook for one. With two big work trips coming up, he’ll be kitchen solo, so I love to leave things in the freezer for him. I also love that that means he’ll do stuff for me later, like back rubs, laundry and putting up with me when I wear the same hoodie and dirty yoga pants for two straight days and walk around our apartment muttering about “the caterers, THE CATERERS!” He’s a gem. A gem deserving of many enchiladas.

SundayBerkeley Bowl Panzanella (made 3 hearty servings)

MondayColorado Enchiladas (made 6 hearty servings)

TuesdayShakshouska (3 servings)

Wednesday – Baked Mahi + Herbed Vegetables (2 servings)19

Thursday – Bruschetta (appetizers for 6)

Friday – Mushroom Risotto (4 normal servings)

Produce:
Basil
Heirloom Tomatoes
Mushrooms
Cauliflower – 1 head
Garlic
Bread:
Flour tortillas
Dairy:
Cream cheese – 2
Heavy Cream – 1 pint
Coffee creamer
Pecorino/Romano grated cheese
Meat:
Frozen chicken breasts
Mahi filets
Pantry:
Jar of green tomatillo salsa/verde
Veggie broth
Table wine – 4 bottles
Apple cider vinegar

Print me! Weekly Menu – March 17

Colorado Enchiladas

photo 1 Type “green chili” into any search engine and “Colorado” will pop right up. Why is my great square state so known for green chili? No idea. All I know is that my mom makes bomb green chili and though it’s meant to be smothered on things, we sometimes eat it straight out of the bowl like soup. And then our taste buds fall off due to spiciness, but life is not without its risks, amirite? photo 2 This recipe does not feature my mom’s green chili. I feel I need to say that right up front. To do that, we’d need to fly home and interview my mom – something that is definitely on the GSG long-term plan – but this week, we are here in SF and that is not part of the short-term plan. But these enchiladas are. And they still call for that most Colorado of ingredient, green chili. This week, we’re using green chili from a jar. I know, I’m hanging my head in shame right now. BUT! But but! If you have a green chili recipe you love, you should totally use it here. Don’t let my corner-cutting drag you into the gutter. Hold your head up high, you!

Simple, delicious, and definitely not very good for you, these enchiladas feature another very simple ingredient that makes anything better: cream cheese. Spaghetti sauce? Put a little cream cheese in there. Sushi? CREAM CHEESE. Cake? Add some cream cheese. You can see where this is going. Normally I restrain myself from going full-on cream cheese crazy because I’d like my arteries clear and my wedding dress to fit, but exceptions must be made. Because life is not without its risks, but it’s certainly also not without reward.

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COLORADO ENCHILADAS

Ingredients:

. 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

. 2 packets of cream cheese . 2 scallions, thinly sliced

. 1 15 ounce can of crushed tomatoes . 4 cloves of pressed garlic

. 1 tablespoon of cumin

. 1 teaspoon of sea salt

. 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese

. 1 15 ounce jar of green chili/salsa verde

. 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped

. At least 10 small flour tortillas

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350, if cooking right away.

2. Boil a pan of lightly salted water, then cook the chicken breasts until they are…well, cooked. People are always recommending you cook chicken until “juices run clear” but in a pan of boiling water, that might be hard slash impossible to see. I boiled for 12 minutes and it worked out just great. Let the chicken cool before shredding.

3. While the chicken is cooking, beat together the cream cheese, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper. Add in the tomatoes, green onions, and jalapeño after that and mixy mix!

4. Shred the chicken into the cream cheese/tomato mixture, then stir again. After that, spoon the mixture into flour tortillas, as much or as little as you’d like. If you like guidelines, 1/3 cup per tortilla is fine.

5. Cover the whole shebang with green chili/salsa verde/tomatillo salsa/green enchilada sauce. Whatever you prefer! Then cover that whole shebang with shredded cheese. Bake on 350 until the cheese is melted, or about 20 minutes.

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Berkeley Bowl Panzanella

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Last weekend we found ourselves in one of our top five places in the Bay Area. Golden Gate Bridge? Nah. Crissy Field? Nope. The Palace of Fine Arts? Nyet! Berkeley Bowl. Ye Hallowed grocery story, built in a former bowling alley, Berkeley Bowl is that famous joint right between the gourmet ghetto and campus, full of the most delicious produce. If it made any sort of sense at all – and if I didn’t have to fight through the equally famous Bay Area traffic – I would exclusively shop here.

Half the fun of Berkeley Bowl is knowing that you’re buying organic and local, because that’s a huge part of their produce section. The other half of the fun is that they have everything, so if you are suddenly struck by pea shoots and purple carrots, and then you want to build an Asian dish around those two things, they also have spring roll wrappers, soba noodles, seaweed, and whatever else your little heart might desire. Tears are shed at Berkeley Bowl, it’s just that amazing. If you would like to skip to the recipe, instead of listen me wax ecstatic about the Bizerkely Bowl, skip ahead. I’ll still be here, weeping into my tomatoes.

Tomatoes: a still life.

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Or, if you’re like us, you like any and all produce and you buy a little of everything. That’s exactly how our Berkeley Bowl Panzanella came to be: a pound of gorgeous heirloom tomatoes, a half pound of tricolor sweet peppers, a beautiful purple onion, some fresh basil, big heads of pinky organic garlic, and some obligatory citrus, because we’re right in that halfway place between winter and spring. Citrus, with its good friend kale, is coming out of our ears.

This panzanella also came to be as the love child of Smitten Kitchen, ye hallowed blogger who I love so much, and the summer panzanella from Outerlands, ye formerly hallowed and hard to get in to restaurant. While Deb’s panzanella is full-on summer, and Outerlands’ panzanella was always a bit fussy (squash blossoms, rosemary infusions) this one is more a humble dressed salad, winter citrus-infused, with the proud addition of warm homemade bread straight from the oven. A halfway meal between winter and spring that is secretly whispering, “Come on, Summer!”

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BERKELEY BOWL PANZANELLA

Salad Ingredients:

. 6-8 small tricolor sweet peppers

. 1 lb.  heirloom tomatoes (about three large tomatoes)

. 1 ripe avocado

. 1/3 purple/red onion, diced

. 1 freshly baked loaf of badass bread with italian seasonings added on top before baking

Dressing Ingredients:

. 1/2 lemon

. 2-3 cloves of garlic

. 1/4 cup EVOO

. 1/2 tablespoon dijon mustard

. Pinches of S&P

Optional garnishes: a small handful of sweet California basil and some grated cheese. We used a mix of pecorino and romano.

Instructions:

1. 4-6 hours before you eat, prep the bread dough and set aside.

2. 45 minutes before you’d like to eat, put the dough in the oven on 450, anywhere from 20-35 minutes. My oven takes a full 35.

3. Chop up all the ingredients to your liking. I diced my onions and peppers, cut my avocado into small cubes, and did some strange hybrid chop/dice with the tomatoes. Heirloom tomatoes often have split skins and bulbous shapes, so just do the best you can to cut them into bite sized pieces.

2. Let the ingredients sit for a few minutes while you make the dressing. Whisk together the 1/4 cup of evoo, 2-3 (up to you) pressed garlic, 1/2 tablespoon of dijon, and then juice the half lemon right into it. Salt and pepper to your taste.

3. Remove your bread from the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes. Once it’s cooled, slice off about a third of the loaf and rip it into pieces for giant croutons. Some would prefer crustier bread or day-old bread for these, but, um, FRESH BREAD. The fresh warmth is so delicious I just don’t see how anyone can argue.

4. Toss the croutons very lightly into some of the dressing, then add them to the salad. You can chiffonade some basil over the top, or top with some simple grated cheese.

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Et voila! This made three servings for us: two very hearty helpings for dinner (ahem) and enough to have the rest as a tasty side for lunch the next morning.

Enjoy it!

Weekly Menu: March 13

As we launch into the weekend, I wanted to post the first of our menus! Now that we talked about the importance of menu planning and how to do it, I’m excited to start sharing our menus here with all of you in a new feature on Gourmet Style Girl.

These menus, along with applicable recipes and grocery lists, can now be found on a new page in the header titled Weekly Menus, and below, for viewing and downloading. Be sure to double check your grocery list against this one – you might already have some of these items on hand!

Happy eating!

Monday – Thai coconut noodles (save leftovers for Thursday’s spring rolls)

Tuesday – Pan-seared tilapia and balsamic brussels sprouts

Wednesday – Chickpea, cherry tomato, pesto, quinoa salad

Thursday – Peanut soba spring rolls

Friday – Pizza night! 

 
Grocery list:

Rice noodles

Fish sauce

Spring rolls wrappers

Tilapia

Basil

Bell peppers – 2

Brussels – one pound

Scallions – one bunch

Garlic

Onions – red and yellow

Mushrooms

Tomatoes

Canned chickpeas

Jarred Marinara

Pre-made pizza dough

Vegan sausage (for pizza)

Print me! Weekly Menu – March 13

How to Menu Plan

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Menu Planning is something I do every week, usually on Saturday morning. Lies! I actually think about food all week long, all the time. I think about it while I’m writing (What can my characters eat in this scene?) and while I’m doing expense reports, while I’m in meetings, and I especially think about it while running. I actually chant Dough-NUTS! Dough-NUTS! in my head. It’s like a little Gregorian chant goin’ on in there, but with a lot more emphasis on baked goods. Ahem. Have you seen my cream cheese pound cake?

Anyway, Saturday morning is when I write that biz down, and that’s really how the Menu Planning process works. And unlike the hanger process, it’s much more productive and takes less than two hours for the entire week. The whole week! Most people watch more TV every day than that. Amazing.

Step 1: Look at what we currently have in the fridge and pantry. Beans, quinoa, or leftover veggies almost always mean that cassoulet or big bowls are going on the menu for that week. If we want something out of the ordinary, I find recipes that include whatever we have on hand that we need to use. For example, I had a LOT of celery, leeks, and carrots lying around a few weeks ago. Instead of letting them go bad, they became a huge batch of this soup, which went straight into the freezer. This week I found myself with an overabundance of carrots – pickle that biznass!

Time required: 5 minutes. Just five measly minutes to peer around your kitchen and open up ye old refrigerator.

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Step 2: Dream about what we’d like to eat and cook! Pinch of Yum, Love and Lemons, and Everyday Food are my favorites for finding recipes that are healthy, vegetarian, and interesting. We eat veg at this chez at least 85% of the time because it’s good for the earth and good for your man, clap yo’ hands, hey clap yo’ hands! (And good for yourself, too, obviously. But rhyming is important, okay?) This is the fun part because it means I get to troll Pinterest and food blogs and not feel like I’m not wasting my time.

Time required: 15 minutes, but I usually spend about 30, because it’s fun!

Step 3: List! I know people who use Ziplist or other apps, but I usually email Nathan and myself a list, so we can add or delete if we need. We almost always have the basics: spices, garlic, EVOO, and staples like quinoa, soba noodles, veggie stock, etc. When we do run out of those things, they go on a small whiteboard on the fridge. The fridge list gets added to the email list, which takes about .2 seconds.

I also plan out which meal we’ll eat on each day, so if I’m leaving early for work, N knows what to throw into the crock pot or what to have ready when I get home. If I’m working from home, I know how early I need to stop work and start cooking so dinner can be ready for him. This system does rely upon having a partner who likes to cook and who isn’t a dunce in the kitch. Thankfully, I got me one of those.

Time required: 10 minutes to make a list.

Time required to train your S.O. on the cooking process: TBD. You’re on your own with that one, friend.

Step 4: Shop! Also the fun part, even if that means I have to look longingly at sugary cereals, frozen waffles or other weird things that we don’t buy but which inexplicably always sound good in the moment. Never grocery shop hungry. Just don’t do it. Only buy what’s on your list. If you’ve done the above correctly, your list might be longer than a normal list, but you will eat for an entire week instead of walking out with three TJ’s prepared salads and a pack of dark chocolate peanut butter cups and a plan to return to TJ’s next week, after you’ve eaten out four more times.

This week we spent just under $100. For that money, we got 11 meals, in the form of dinners that became leftovers for lunch or became another meal entirely. If we make something in the crock pot and (we’re cooking for two), we can usually add at least four more meals on top of that. Would you like to see an ugly picture from inside my fridge to demonstrate that point? Here you are:

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Time required: 20 minutes if you split up in a tiny Trader Joe’s or a City Whole Foods. Give yourself at least 45 if alone in a Safeway and the lines are long. Why are Safeway lines always SO LONG? It’s a head scratcher, folks. Also, Alone in a Safeway could be the title of a new indie record OR an extremely low budge horror film. It’s yours for the taking and you’re welcome.

There you have it! Soon, people will be coming to your house and looking at your fridge. And you’ll be with me, out for a run with all that time you’ve saved. Chant it with me now: Dough-NUTS! Dough-NUTS!

Menu Planning + Head Explosions

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My head exploded the other day. Metaphorically, of course, but still. Perhaps we call those “epiphanies,” or “revelations” maybe? That all sounds rather biblical and, unless accompanied by a burning bush, not accurate either. We’ll stick with head explosions.

A dear friend of mine here in the city looked at our refrigerator, where we’d taped our meal plan for the week, and actually giggled. “You know what you’re eating every night for dinner? This is amazing!”

The amazing part was that it was taped to the fridge. Normally we email it. But truly, my friends,  this is really not that amazing. It’s called Menu Planning, and I thought this was how everyone ate. But what ho! as a Jane Austen character might say. Turns out, no. From what I am beginning to understand, the average San Francisco millennial’s food situation looks like this:

Step 1: Acknowledge hunger.

Step 2: Cast about for  nearby food. If you work at Google, this is easy. If you work somewhere without schmancy perks, less so. If you work from home, even harder. And if you work from my home, you are snackin’ on hummus and baby carrots, all day every day people.

Step 3: Become cranky, descend quickly into angry. Hanger sets in.

Step 4: Eat Luna bar. Remain hungry.

Step 5: Cave and buy something processed, prepared, or go out to dinner.

Step 6: Repeat.

Or you could skip straight from Step 1 to Step 6 with careless abandon. Yippee skippee! I love spending all my money at restaurants!

Maybe it’s the impending wedding, impending trip to Iceland, impending honeymoon, or, you know, general stuff like life and how it costs money, but I do not love spending all my money at restaurants. I love spending money at delicious restaurants and savoring a meal like a fine wine or a conversation with a dear friend. I hate spending money on a Starbucks oatmeal, a bruised granny smith coffee shop apple, or a sub-standard sandwich, because I could handle all that myself and it would be so much better and cheaper. Many people – maybe even most people? – will pay a premium for convenience. I am just not one of them.

Most people think Menu Planning is something you do with kids or when you’re married or when you have nothing better to do with your time. But though I am a lowly apartment fiancé (a mere step below housewife), I actually cannot imagine not doing this. I don’t want to grocery shop more than once per week. I don’t want to spend more than $100 on groceries when I do it. And I want to live with my riches for a long, long time, eliminating both processed food-like substances and paying for said food-like substances completely out of the equation.

Ergo, Menu Planning! And since I am such a passionate menu planner, I thought it would be fun to both explain how we do it, and start posting our menus here for others to enjoy and possibly even use?! Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to know we were all eating peanut noodle spring rolls together on the same night. Because that’s what we are having for dinner here in SF tonight, and we’ll be keeping our head explosions to a minimum while we do it.