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Chakchouka à la Moncef

29 Nov

Chakchouka is a fried pepper and vegetable dish that is as commonly served in Tunisian kitchens as are hot dogs at American ball parks.  Chakchouka is an incredibly flavorful dish that emerged from a country that is a bustling crossroad of French, Italian and Arab cultures.  Since Italy is just a hop across the picturesque Mediterranean, many Tunisian dishes have been influenced by Italian culinary traditions.  Not only do both countries share the same passion for fresh ingredients and lively tomato based dishes, but both also view food as a hub that strengthens bonds between gathering friends and families.  Chakchouka is one of my favorite things to eat in Tunisia because it can be eaten at any time of the day and the spices always enhance the inherent flavors of the fresh veggies.  My father’s recipe puts a nice twist on the traditional version by adding potatoes – making this the perfect entrée for an easy Sunday brunch.

Ingredients

  •  1 red and 1 green bell pepper (cut into thin slices, about 2 inch long pieces)
  • 1 medium size yellow onion (chopped or finely sliced)
  • 1 medium size potato (skinned and diced into about 1/2 inch pieces)
  • 2 fresh tomatoes (seeded, diced into 1 inch pieces)
  • 1 medium size zucchini (1/4 inch thick half circles)
  • 4-6 large eggs
  • 2 gloves of garlic (1 finely diced, 1 quartered)
  • 4 oz. of plain tomato sauce
  • 1 Tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 Tsp. ground caraway seeds
  • 1 Tbl. chopped cilantro
  • 1 Tbl. chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 Tbl. chopped green onion
  • olive oil

Preparation

  1. In a medium size skillet over medium heat, lightly fry potatoes in about 3 tablespoons of olive oil until slightly browned and almost tender. Salt lightly then set aside.
  2. Repeat step 1 with the zucchini.  Cook until they are still slightly firm but nearly edible. They will be cooked more later, so be careful to not overcook.
  3. Preferably in a cast-iron skillet, heat 2 tbl. of olive oil. Sauté the onions on medium-high heat for about 4 min or until translucent.
  4. Add the bell peppers to the onions. Salt and pepper to taste, then add the cilantro.
  5. Cook the mixture for 1-2 more minutes then add all of the garlic, coriander and caraway, mix well.
  6. Add the tomato sauce to the mixture and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, cover and simmer on low for about 15-20 minutes – stir on occasion until the sauce has thickened.
  7. Once the mixture has thickened, distribute the potatoes and zucchini evenly on top and push them gently into the mixture.
  8. Simmer uncovered for 3 more minutes on medium-low heat.
  9. With the back of a large spoon, make depressions for the eggs on top of the Chakchouka (creating a “nest” for the eggs so they are contained and do not run all over the top).
  10. Carefully crack the eggs into the nests. Salt and pepper them,  then top the dish with chopped Italian parsley and green onions.
  11. Broil the entire skillet in the oven for about 3-5 minutes or until eggs are set and no longer translucent – make sure the yolk is still soft and runny.

Serve right away and enjoy.  The secret is to not overcook the Chakchouka, and as my grandmother, Meherzia, used to say, “You must eat it live!”

Get your Matzah Brei on…

26 Apr

So I realize I am a few hours late for my One Delish Dish shout out to Passover and all of its culinary delights, but I’m hopeful that my tasty twist on Matzah Brei can be enjoyed at anytime of the year.  Among the Gefilte fish, bitter herbs and zero-yeast policy, Passover isn’t typically known as the holiday filled with amazing cuisine.  However, my close friend and fellow “Jewish-insider,” Jonathan Cohen, told me that Matzah Brei is the way to go during Passover – well, that and Matzah pizza, but I could never deal with a dough-less pizza.  That’s just not happening, I love a good dough a little too much.

Matzah Brei is an easy, healthier alternative to quiche that’s super tasty when spiced up a bit.  It’s basically softened matzah that is mixed with eggs and either made into a frittata-type cake or broken up into pieces.  It can be prepared in a savory style (served with meat, onions, chives and/or sour cream), or a sweet style (served with cinnamon, sugar and jam).  Since I would pick a cheeseburger over a cupcake any day, I chose to go the more savory route.  They key is to make it as crispy as possible on the outside (without charring it of course).

To make this you need:

– 4 or 5 pieces of matzah

– 4 eggs

– about 10 finely chopped chives

– 1/4 cup of fried onions (either freshly fried or dehydrated)

– salt and pepper to taste

– 2 teaspoons of garlic powder

– 1 tablespoon of butter

– 3 strips of turkey bacon, chopped into small pieces

– one large dollop of sour cream

avocado slices

Preparation:  In a large bowl, break the matzah into bite-sized pieces, then pour hot water over them (enough to cover).  As soon as the matzah is soft, drain out the excess water.  In a separate bowl, beat the eggs.  Then add the eggs, salt, pepper, garlic powder and chopped chives to the softened matzah, mix and set aside.  Heat the butter in the frying pan and fry the chopped turkey bacon.  When the turkey bacon is crispy, pour the egg/matzah mixture over it and let the mixture cook over medium heat.  I prefer to cook this like a frittata, so allow it brown and crisp on one side, then carefully flip it either by hand or with a spatula.  After both sides are crisped, slide it onto a plate and top it off with some sour cream, avocado slices and fresh chives.  You can either cut it up and serve it like a quiche, or simply dig in with a fork.  Enjoy for breakfast, lunch or dinner…and of course, don’t forget the Tapatio!


 

Tuna Crostini w/Harissa and Shaved Parmesan

28 Mar

This crostini is one of my favorite things to eat because it’s so simple to make and always hits the spot. Growing up with a Tunisian father and a Chinese-Indonesian mother, I was no stranger to smothering my meals in hot sauce from some corner of the world.  For those of you who haven’t heard of Harissa, it’s an amazing chili paste with garlic and cumin that was made famous by my fellow North Africans.  Besides a plate of homemade couscous, Harissa compliments just about anything; but my personal favorite is spreading it on a slice of perfectly toasted bread with a little tuna, capers and shaved parmesan.  This dish is perfect for a light lunch or a late afternoon snack.

To make it you need…

– A few slices of good artisan bread (either Kalamata or a baguette)

– 1 can of tuna in olive oil (preferably Genova)

Harissa

– A few lemon wedges

Capers

2 tsps of salt and pepper

– Shaved parmesan

– Pinch of dried herbs (such as basil or oregano) to top

While the bread is toasting, take a small bowl and mix the tuna, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Remove the toasted bread and spread a light layer of Harissa onto it.  Then top the bread with the tuna mixture, a few parmesan shavings, capers and sprinkle on the herbs.  There you go… a 5-minute meal with a spicy kick and endless amounts of flavor.

You can either make a full sandwich size version of this crostini for lunch (feel free to add arugula and tomato slices), or make a platter of bite sized versions to serve as hors d’oeuvres.

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