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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!”

One Delish Dish: Angel Hair Pasta w/ Garlic, White Wine, Cherry Tomatoes, Basil and Goat Cheese

27 Jun

During the week I wish I could cook nightly lavish feasts, but occasionally the fatigue dominates and I don’t feast as often as I’d like to.  However, I recently made  this simple and healthy meal with my lovely ladies Maria and Phuong and it reminded me how easy it is to throw together a fresh pasta.  An additional perk for me, is that this delish dish gives me dinner and a lunch for the next day (FYI: homemade pastas and soups always make the best leftovers because all the flavors have time to meld together).  We made a simple whole wheat angel hair pasta with fresh basil, cherry tomatoes and goat cheese in a light garlic and white wine sauce.  This dish is fast to make and is also packed full of fresh ingredients and flavor.

Ingredients:

– 1lb of whole grain angel hair pasta

– 16oz container of cherry tomatoes (rinsed and halved)

– 4 cloves of garlic (minced)

– Large handful of fresh basil leaves (roughly chopped)

– Regular or herbed goat cheese

– 1/3 cup of white wine

– 1/2 a can of chicken stock (about 7.5 oz)

– Salt and pepper, crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

While chopping and prepping all the fresh ingredients, bring a large pot of water to a boil (add a little salt to the water to flavor the pasta more).  Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a medium size sauté pan and then toss in the tomatoes and 3/4 of the chopped fresh basil, salt and pepper them to taste, then after a couple minutes add in the garlic.

Sweat the garlic with the tomatoes and basil for a few minutes until the garlic begins to turn a very light brown color, it’s important to not let the garlic get dark brown or burn because it will become bitter and overpower the dish.  Once the garlic cooks a little, pour the chicken broth and white wine into the same pan.  Bring it all to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and let it simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes.
While the liquids in the pan are reducing, put the pasta in the boiling water and cook it for about 5-7 minutes.  Stir the pasta occasionally and ensure it isn’t sticking to itself or becoming mushy.  Drain the pasta and save a small cup of the pasta water on the side just in case the pasta needs additional moisture before serving.  After completely draining the pasta, add a few drizzles of olive oil and pinches of salt to it. Then add the pasta to the sauté pan and toss with all of the ingredients (there should still be a fair amount of liquid in the pan prior to adding the pasta).  Finally, add in the goat cheese crumbles and mix everything together over very low heat.  Feel free to add more salt or pepper to taste.

After plating the pasta, top it off with some fresh basil, goat cheese and crushed red pepper…and there you go, a quick, easy and tasty light meal for any night of the week.

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