An improvisational comfort food originating in North Africa, there are as many shakshuka recipes as there are cooks. I’d read three or four before settling on the one that I made, but feel free to wing it. Adding olives or feta is commonplace, as is saffron, if you’re feeling wealthy.
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp high-smoke-point oil, like safflower
2 onions, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 fresh moderately hot peppers: Anaheim, cayenne, or jalapeno, diced.
1 tsp thyme
2 bay leaves
1 28 oz. can of whole, peeled tomatoes (or 6 to 8 fresh paste tomatoes, if you can find them)
1 tsp light brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large, lidded pan, heat the oil over moderate heat and add the cumin and paprika and cook until fragrant. Turn the heat to high, add the onion and saute until soft and slightly charred, add the peppers and continue to cook until the peppers are slightly soft and the onion is very tender. Add the thyme, bay, tomato, and sugar, reduce the heat, stir well and simmer, breaking the tomatoes down, until you have a thick-ish sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Make four wells in the sauce, crack an egg into each, lower the heat to low, cover the pan and poach the eggs in the sauce, until the whites are just set and the yolks are soft, roughly 10 minutes. Serve in bowls with pita to mop up the sauce.
A variation on a Deborah Madison recipe in “The Savory Way.” While her recipe calls for cannellini beans, I prefer a darker bean. My go-to is Borlotti (which I grow each year, in part, for this casserole) but pintos or soldier beans are a good substitute.
1 cup dried beans, washed
1 bay leaf
2 large leeks
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
2 14 oz cans of artichoke hearts, quartered
1 cup water
8 oz good goat cheese (Humboldt Fog is best, others will do in a pinch.)
2 cups bread crumbs
Place the beans and bay leaf in a heavy pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender. 2-3 hours. Drain, reserving the bean liquor.
While the beans are cooking, prep the veg: quarter the leeks lengthwise and slice into 1/2″ pieces. Wash well and drain. Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and saute for 3 minutes or so. Add the garlic, rosemary, and artichoke hearts and saute for another 4 minutes. Add the water, cover, reduce the the heat to medium low and simmer until the leeks and artichokes are tender. Season with salt and pepper, add the beans.
Preheat the oven to 400. Put the bean mixture in a roomy casserole. Add enough of the reserved bean liquor to cover the mixture. crumble the cheese and spread it evenly on top of the bean mixture. Moisten the bread crumbs with olive oil, then spread on top of the casserole. Bake until the top is browned and the casserole is bubbly, 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven, let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Serves 4 as a main course.
I was in the mood for a savory, vegetable tart. I’d made, in the past, a Stilton and fennel tart, but that wasn’t quite right. And I have an old Williams-Sonoma recipe for a mushroom galette, but that wasn’t quite right either. So, I thought I’d mix and match, which turned out to be a good idea. Usually, I’d make a rough puff pastry, but I found this recipe for a savory tart crust on Smitten Kitchen, and it was different enough from my usual crust that I gave it a whirl. In the end, the tart is a rich, savory, fulfilling main course.
1 small fennel bulb, stems removed, quartered and thinly sliced
1 small leek, white part only, quartered, thinly sliced and washed
8 oz. white button mushrooms or crimini mushrooms, wiped and sliced thin
6 oz. fresh wild mushrooms, wiped and sliced thin (I used oyster, but anything that looks good, or a mix, will do)
1/2 tsp dried sage
4 tbsp unsalted butter
4 oz. Roquefort cheese
1/4 cup whole milk
Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste.
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Tart crust, either store bought, or homemade
9″ two-piece tart pan. Line the bottom with a round of parchment cut to fit.
If you’re using a Store-bought crust, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, gently place the crust in the tart pan, pressing it down into the edge, trim, then chill for 30 minutes. Place the pan on a cookie sheet, line the crust with foil, fill with beans or pie weights and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and weights, return the crust and bake for another 5-7 minutes, until the crust is light golden. Remove to a cooling rack.
If you’re making a crust from scratch, it doesn’t need to be blind baked. assemble the crust, line the tart pan, and tuck the crust in the fridge while you work on the filling.
In a 12″ cast iron skillet or saute pan, melt 2 tbsp of butter over medium low heat. Add the fennel and leek and cook, stirring frequently, until the fennel is soft, 20 minutes or so. Scrape the fennel and leek into a bowl, wipe the pan clean. Return the pan to the heat, add the remaining 2 tbsp of butter and add the mushrooms, stirring, until the mushrooms give up their liquid. Add the sage, a generous grinding of pepper, and a pinch of salt. Continue cooking until the liquid in the pan is gone, another 7-10 minutes. Scrape the mushrooms into the bowl with the fennel and leek, stir to combine.
Beat the eggs and milk together until combined.
Assembling the Tart
Take the tart crust from the fridge. Spread the filling evenly over the crust, pressing it gently flat but not compacting it. Crumble the Roquefort and scatter it over the mushrooms. Take the egg-milk mixture and pour evenly over the filling, top with the Parmesan cheese, and another few grinds of pepper.
Bake at 350 until well browned and fragrant, 30 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack and cool until just lukewarm. Remove the tart from the tart pan, serve warm.
These are an attractive, dish to serve to your vegetarian friends. Garlic-infused beet and potato ravioli, topped with a simple butter and poppy seed sauce. If you want to get extra-fancy, make batches with red beets and golden beets for a multi-colored main course.
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds (700 grams) of fresh beets (about 3 medium beets)
1/2 pound (250 grams) of potato (about 2 small potatoes)
2 peeled garlic cloves, whole
pinches of freshly ground nutmeg
pinches of ground cloves
3/4 cup butter
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
3 ounces (80 grams) Parmesan cheese, grated
Combine the flour and the pinch of salt in a bowl, make a well in the center and crack the eggs into it, add the oil, then, using a fork, whisk the egg and oil until combined. Slowly start working the flour into the eggs. The mixture will become very stiff, eventually, you’ll have to switch to your hands. Work the dough until it is no longer sticky. When it is smooth and bounces back when poked with a finger, shape it into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for at least 30 minutes.
While the dough rests, wash and quarter the beets and the potatoes (don’t bother peeling them). Place together in a pot, cover with cold water, add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Cook until tender (the potatoes may finish faster than the beets, if so, remove them with a slotted spoon and let the beets finish). Puree both the beets and potatoes using a food mill (the skins will be left behind in the mill).
Heat two tablespoons of olive oil over gentle heat in a pan large enough to hold the beets and potatoes. Add the garlic cloves and saute for a moment. Over medium-low heat, add the potatoes and beets and cook until they thicken and start to bubble, 10-15 minutes. Add the nutmeg, cloves and some salt, remove the garlic and take the mixture off the heat, letting it cool completely.
Making the Ravioli
Roll out half of the pasta on a floured surface until it is thin enough to see your hand through (a pasta machine works, too, of course). Cut out rounds with a drinking glass or a 3″ diameter biscuit cutter. Place a teaspoon of filling in the middle of each round, then fold over to make half-moon shapes. Seal the edges firmly with your fingers or with a fork. Set the ravioli aside, uncovered, on a floured surface as you finish them. Save the scraps of dough under a tea towel while you work. Continue to roll and fill until the filling and dough are used up.
At this point, the ravioli can be placed on a cookie sheet, so they’re not touching, and frozen. Once frozen, bag them and return to the freezer. To cook the frozen ravioli, bring a pot of salted water to a gentle boil and place the frozen ravioli straight from the freezer into the water. Do not thaw them first.
If you are cooking them fresh, bring a pot of salted water to a gentle boil and drop the ravioli in. Remove them when they float, 2-3 minutes. Toss with melted butter, poppy seeds, and freshly-grated Parmesan (a grinding of black pepper, while non-traditional, is welcome, too). Serve immediately.