My experience at Oleana last weekend inspired me to prepare a Middle Eastern-themed meal, so I concocted my favorite excuse to cook, inviting some friends over for brunch. I wanted to build the meal around shakshuka, a North African dish I had had bookmarked for awhile. Isn’t that a wicked fun word to say? It’s both exotic and bad-ass, and had I not known what it referred to, I could just as easily be deceived into thinking it was a fun island cocktail or the baseline for a rap beat. Plus, it rhymes with nasty words like hookah and bazooka. Couldn’t you totally see Eminem dropping the above line? I hope he credits me when he does…though ideally not by referring to me as a b*tch or ho.
The dish is essentially poached eggs in a spicy tomato sauce, but something about this simple combination struck me when I saw it. I used smitten kitchen’s recipe (doubled) as a guide, though idiotically neglected the feta, which I will be sure to include next time. It was good as is, but I would have preferred the dish to be significantly spicier. I wonder if I devein and deseed my peppers too thoroughly for my own good. Chinese restaurants typically just run a knife through the peppers whole (seeds and all) and toss them into the wok (An aside: wok-seared hot peppers, with a little salt, are so delicious. Don’t perceive them as garnish!). Next time I might try cutting the number of peppers in half and using them in their entirety for a more pronounced overall kick.
In addition to the shakshuka, I made lamb meatballs and roasted mushrooms with a healthy amount of garlic and butter. The lamb meatballs were surprisingly successful products salvaged from my attempt to make aubergine rolls. While cooking them, I realized the eggplant slices were neither wide nor thick enough, and thus not sturdy enough to play the role they were destined for. I was disappointed, but rather than hazarding rolls that would probably fall apart anyway, I racked my brain for an alternative and meatballs seemed to make sense. Even though my meat mixture was already cooked, I tossed it with an egg and some bread crumbs, gave the outsides a dusting of bread crumbs, too, and popped them in the oven so they would crisp up. The next day, the remaining meatballs, smothered in shakshuka sauce, lent themselves beautifully to a leftovers pita bread sub.
Served with garlic and lemon yogurt sauce:
Roasted mushrooms: nice, but could have used a briny element to cut the meaty richness and umami.
In other news, Boston area residents can now breathe easier knowing that snow has finally graced our town. Tonight is also the winter solstice, whatever that means.