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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!”

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5 Foods Friday: 5 Things to Eat at Outside Lands

12 Aug

For music, food and general San Francisco enthusiasts like myself, it really doesn’t get much better than the Outside Lands Festival.  With  great musical performances, an entire giant tent dedicated to wine and seeminlgy endless food offerings, my visit to SF’s annual music, food, wine and art festival is long overdue.  After disecting the “Taste of the Bay Area” lineup for this weekend… I’ve carefully chosen my top 5 must-try festival foods.

1.  Arepas – Pica Pica Maize Kitchen

Indigienous to mainlyVenezuela and Columbia – Arepas are a moist and tasty corn dough treat that are typically stuffed with melted cheese and meat.  They are easy to eat and walk around with and keep you full for awhile, a perfect festival food!

2.  Hawaiian Poke and Baja Shrimp Ceviche – Pacific Catch 

Typical poke consists of cubed raw yellowfin tuna that is mixed with soy sauce, sesame oil, seaweed and chili pepper.  It is full of dynamic flavors that serve to enhance the natural taste of the fresh tuna.  Pacific Catch has a famous restaurant in the Marina District of San Francisco that I’ve been wanting to try –  so as long as all this fresh raw fish is kept firmly on ice, I will most definitely be trying the poke and ceviche at this festival food stand.

3.  Uhhmazing chicken, beef and carnitas tacos and burritos – Gordo Taqueria

When I lived in the Bay Area during college, Gordo’s was THE spot to hit up for some real Mexican food that reminded me of my hometown, San Diego.  Gordo’s is a huge must for me!

4. Po’boys (Shrimp, BBQ Pork, Southern Fried Chicken) – Criolla Kitchen 

Even though these may get a little messy and difficult to eat while walking around a festival, good po’boys are crispy and always packed full of flavor.  The perfect po’boy must be eaten right away and it’s all about the freshness of the bread roll.

5.  Filet Mignon Sliders, Portobello Mushroom Sliders, BBQ drumsticks – Up & Under

I have a strange obsession with sliders and pretty much anything that’s cute and mini-sized (i.e. mini Tabasco bottles).  Sliders with filet mignon and portobellos + BBQ drumsticks…who can resist? I’ll take 2 of each please.

This weekend at Outside Lands, I will eat my heart out and dance my ass off.  I’ll be sure to report back with photos…

5 Foods Friday: 5 Best Things in LA to Eat with your Hands

5 Aug

On whole, I find utensils pretty overrated.  Since the foods I enjoy the most are the ones where I get to toss the spork aside and use my hands, I’ve decided to do my first 5  Foods Friday post – a weekly themed list of my top 5 fave foods/places to eat.  This week’s theme: Best things in LA to eat with your hands.  Before eating, please wash those hands first, your cell phone probably has more bacteria on it than a gas station toilet. Yummm.  So with that said…let’s eat!

1.  Umami Burger

This place is definitely an LA staple and on any given night you’ll find crowds of people waiting to get the infamous Truffle, So Cal, or Umami burgers into their hot little hands.  For blue cheese fanatics, the Port & Stilton burger is a must.  The juicy beef patty is loaded with Stilton blue cheese and caramelized onions – which serve as a perfectly sweet contrast to the sharp, full-bodied cheese. 

If the rich and amazingly flavorful burgers aren’t enough for you, Umami also has housemade, crispy cheesy tots, onion rings and they even make their own ketchup, roasted garlic aioli, jalapeno ranch and spicy diablo sauce.  Wash it all down with fresh watermelon juice or a deliciously sugary glass bottled Coke.

Umami Burger: Juicy Beef (ground in-house), Roasted Tomato, Parmasean Crisp

2.  Cielito Lindo: Taquitos

Located on the corner of Downtown’s Olvera Street Marketplace, this famous little stand sells the most incredible taquitos I’ve ever tasted.  They are freshly made to order, pan fried to a perfect crisp and topped with an amazingly flavorful  salsa verde and avocado sauce.  The true flavor of the taquitos and fresh tortillas aren’t drowning under heaps of shredded lettuce, they look simple but once you bite into one, the sauce perfectly enhances the taquito’s juicy meat and crispy yet soft texture.   At $6 for a tasty combo plate, Cielito Lindo really can’t do any wrong.

3.  Haru Sushi & Roll Cafe: Lava Stone & Albacore Onion Roll

I know you “technically” should be using chopsticks for anything sushi related, but sometimes the rolls get just a little too big and crazy, and I’m forced to view these delish pop-ems as more of a finger food.  Haru is undoubtedly one of my favorite spots in LA for a sushi feast.  The Lava Stone (crispy rice topped with spicy tuna, black caviar and avocado), Albacore Onion roll (spicy tuna roll covered with albacore, topped with lightly fried onion strips)
and the Yellowtail and Jalapeno Carpaccio are my consistent go-tos on the menu.

4.  Mendoncino Farms: Korbuta Pork Belly Banh Mi

This place has superb sandwiches and super fresh ingredients that never fail to impress.  Along with the DTLA masses, my favorite sandwich here is the Korbuta Pork Belly Banh Mi.  It’s not a completely traditional Vietnamese Banh Mi, but this version does great justice to the original.  The sandwich has tender braised and caramelized kurobuta pork belly, housemade pickled daikon and carrots (which balance the subtle sweetness of the pork), cilantro, cucumbers, jalapenos and chili aioli all on a grilled ciabatta.  The only drawback is that once you’ve experienced all these explosive flavors on your palate, you’ll crave this sandwich on the daily.

5. Fugetsu-Do Bakery: Mochi 

Even though I don’t have a huge sweet tooth, I have to give a shout out to Fugetsu-Do Bakery in Little Tokyo for their amazing Mochi (small gooey Japanese rice cake deliciousness).  This 100 yr-old Japanese bakery in Downtown LA remains family owned and makes the best Japanese desserts – no Mochi compares to the lightly sweetened treats made here.  Their specialty is the strawberry mochi with a crunchy peanut butter filling.  Even though this flavor combo may sound a little off, the amazingly chewy texture of the outside strawberry mochi perfectly compliments the soft peanut butter filling.  Plus, you get to hang out with possibly the sweetest woman in the world…

 

Now go roam the LA culinary streets and dig in!  It tastes better that way.  Stay posted for 5 Foods Friday next week!  Also feel free to leave theme suggestions if you so dare.

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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