A Very Basic Shakshouka

Basic Shakshouka

Shakshouka is a beautiful, colorful blend of North African and middle eastern culinary traditions that makes for a tasty and hearty breakfast or dinner. It’s also versatile. You can add any number of ingredients to this basic recipe and so long as you’ve got that bright red, spicy sauce and some eggs, you’ve still got shakshouka. My only departure from the standard base is to add some onions, because, well, I like onions.

Like most dishes from this region, it’s hard to pin down the origin, but most of the sources I found credit the start of the modern version to Tunisia. From there it spread across North Africa and into the Middle East, where it now is a favorite breakfast or dinner in Israel. In Tunisia, the dish often includes artichoke hearts, potatoes and/or broad beans. I’ve also had it with sausage, chick peas, and feta cheese, in various combinations.

In other words, experiment and have fun.

This version uses harissa, the arabic blend of spices built around chili peppers. You can find it either in paste or dried form in most mainstream groceries, these days and it’s easy to find online. Some recipes I’ve seen call for other chili-based spice blends. Again, use what you like. You also can add more eggs to stretch the dish to feed more people, so long as everyone gets an egg or two.

A Basic Shakshouka
Serves 4
Shakshouka is a beautiful, colorful blend of North African and middle eastern culinary traditions that makes for a tasty and hearty breakfast or dinner.
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Ingredients
  1. Olive oil
  2. 2 Tbsp. harissa (or to taste)
  3. 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  4. 1/2 cup diced white onions
  5. 2 large red peppers, diced small (about 2 cups)
  6. 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  7. 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
  8. 1 28 oz. canned whole tomatoes
  9. 4 large eggs
  10. Salt
Instructions
  1. Heat a large heavy skillet (cast iron is great) over medium heat and when it fully heated, add enough olive oil to just cover the bottom.
  2. When the oil is heated, add the onions and peppers and saute until they're softened.
  3. Add the harissa, tomato paste, garlic, cumin, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Cook for another minute or two.
  4. Add the tomatoes, bring to a gentle simmer, and cook for a further 10 minutes, using the back of a wooden spoon to crush the tomatoes. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  5. When the sauce has reduced a little and become very thick, use a spoon to make four evenly spaced indententations in the sauce and gently break and egg into each indentation.
  6. Reduce temperature a little, cover and simmer until the eggs are poached to your liking.
  7. Remove from the heat, leave for a couple of minutes to settle, then spoon into individual plates and serve with fresh bread (Challah is great for this).
Discovery Cooking http://www.discoverycooking.com/
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Croque Frere

croque frere

For some reason, I was craving a sandwich the other day while researching some egg recipe ideas that were bouncing around in the back of my head. That’s when I stumbled on a French-themed brunch sandwich dubbed croque mademoiselle. A quick tour around the net turned up a croque monsieur, and a croque madame, too. These sandwiches all had a couple of things in common: grilled bread, ham, some kind of cheese and an egg on top. So for fun, I decided to make my own version, which has been dubbed croque Frere, in honor of my little brother, who has a birthday coming up shortly. 

The idea was to use what I happened to have in the fridge, which consisted of some leftover honey-glazed ham, a little compte cheese, and a partial container of crème fraîche. Rather than use bread, I opted for breakfast biscuits I’d made that morning, just because they were handy. 

The sandwiches were fantastic and will likely be a goto for late breakfasts and lunches around the house. The cheese sauce, which was inspired by the croque mademoiselle featured in my favorite egg cookbook, Eggs on Top, was the star. The comte cheese, which subbed for the Gruyère in the original, gave the sauce some nutty flavor that worked very well with the tang of Dijon and shallots. And those did well with the sweetness of the ham. 

Give this one a shot. It’s worth the little bit of effort.

Croque Frere
Croque frere is a take on the French sandwiches that feature various combinations of bread, ham, cheese and are topped with a fried egg.
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Ingredients
  1. For each sandwich, a large biscuit (about 3 inches across), sliced
  2. Sliced, baked ham (honey glazed is best)
  3. 3 Tbsp. creme fraiche (or sour cream)
  4. 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  5. 1 Tbsp. minced shallots
  6. 1/2 to 1 cup grated Compte cheese (Gruyere or even Parmesan will work, too)
  7. Softened butter
  8. Salt and pepper to taste
  9. A fried egg (over easy)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Generously butter the biscuits and grill them on a griddle until the surface is browned and crunchy. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together the creme fraiche, mustard, shallots and grated cheese. If it's too thick, thin with a little milk.
  4. On a baking sheet, place the ham on the bottom biscuit slice, top with the cheese sauce and the biscuit top. Bake for 2-3 minutes, or until the cheese sauce is hot and bubbly.
  5. Place the sandwich on a warm plate, top with the fried egg and serve immediately.
Discovery Cooking http://www.discoverycooking.com/
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Biscuits and Bacon Eggs Benedict

eggs benedict

OK, that’s an awkward title for a blog post, but hey, its descriptive. It’s a little bit of spin on the classic eggs Benedict, using some of my favorite things — homemade buttermilk biscuits, bacon smoked over cherry wood, an egg poached to perfection and a drizzle of hollandaise sauce.

Lets start with the biscuits: They’re done southern style, which means they rise up tall enough to slice and thus take the place of the traditional English muffin. One of the keys to great biscuits is to handle the dough as little as possible and keep it cool (or even cold) throughout the process. Mixing the dough is a job for a food processor or a Ninja type blender with multiple large blades. I’ve tried a hand mixer and I’ve tried a stand mixer. Neither gets the result I want. I’ve also used a simple pastry cutter, and that works pretty well, actually.

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A Basic Frittata

frittata

The frittata is the Italian equivalent of an omelette, or maybe a Quiche without crust. It’s eggs, cheese and whatever appropriate ingredients you have on hand, started on the stove top and finished in the oven. It’s like a fresh clean canvas where you can paint whatever picture suits your mood and your appetite.

The basics are easy. Use an oven proof skillet. I find that my cast iron skillet is perfect for a frittata. Cook your ingredients in the pan first, adds the eggs to the pan and cook them until the edges are set, put some cheese on top and then pop into the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the center of the frittata is set. Give it a few minutes to cool and cut into wedges for serving.

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Individual Baked Eggs

baked eggs

Here in the good ‘ol USA, when you talk about eggs for breakfast, they’re almost certainly fried or scrambled, so when I saw them on a restaurant menu at a country inn, I greeted the idea of baked eggs with a hearty “why would you do that?” The answer was “this is how they make eggs in France.” Figures.

I ordered them, of course, and gee, wow, they’re terrific. They’re creamy and delicate and they’re also perfect for those mornings when you have several people to make breakfast for and don’t want to spend a morning frying eggs one or two at a time.

The base baked eggs recipe is very simple. Use an individual buttered ramekin, add an egg, a teaspoon of heavy cream, and a small pat of butter and bake at 350F until the egg whites are opaque and the yellow is done to your liking. Generally, the baking time is about 15 minutes.

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Carol’s Bedeviled Eggs

deviled eggs

This recipe takes advantage of two discoveries made in our neck of the woods. The first discovery was the best deviled egg we’d ever had – from a restaurant called Jackson’s in our home town of Reston, Virginia. Try as I might, there was something about this deviled egg that I couldn’t replicate – until I made another discovery in the seaside town of Lewes, Delaware.

There on the shelf of a gourmet shop run by a chatty British expat, was a bottle of something I had never seen before: Heinz Salad Cream. Despite Heinz being an American brand, the shopkeep explained, “They make this dressing for Britain and we import it here. Try it.” At nearly $7.00, it was a pricey experiment. And well worth it. One taste, and it seemed possible to approximate Jackson’s deviled eggs, even without knowing their secret ingredients.

Fortunately, it wasn’t necessary to drive two hours back to Lewes to buy more Heinz Salad Cream the next time we wanted deviled eggs. It has since popped up on the shelves of Wegman’s and World Market.

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