Shakshuka

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Today, we’re going to have a little chat about eggs and tomato sauce.

More specifically, egg and tomato sauce for breakfast.

Say whaaaa?

I know. That was my initial reaction too. But just hear me out, because it’s not as out there as it may sound.

 

I know more than a few of you guys have heard of Eggs in Purgatory, right? How about Huevos Rancheros?

This really isn’t so far off from those dishes.

I first heard of Shakshua from watching a cooking show where the host said that they first tried it at a tiny hole in the wall spot in Jerusalem, Israel. It was a meal that was regularly eaten for breakfast/brunch. Normally, I tend to not go much more ‘savory’ than an omelette for breakfast in my preferences, but this dish caught my eye because it just looked SO good. It stuck in my head–and you guys know what happens when a particular dish gets stuck in my head. I just have to try it for myself.

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So. Shakshuka. After you’ve tried to say it three times fast, you’re probably wondering what it is, right?

The base is a tomato sauce of peppers and onions that’s heavily seasoned with garlic and smoky spices, then has eggs poached inside of it. It’s also mostly eaten with pita bread that gets dunked in the sauce. The foundation was a great starter for me to start with, then add some of those personal ‘Jess’ touches.

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Most of the traditional Shakshukas I’ve seen were vegetarian friendly, with either chickpeas or mushrooms giving the sauce the ‘meaty’ texture. But, well um…we’re carnivores around here so I knew that there was no way that meat was NOT going to make an appearance in a dinner I made. Not a lot; but enough to make it’s presence known. I used ground beef, but ground turkey or sausage would work just as well for any other carnivores. (Oh, and you can absolutely throw in the chickpeas WITH the meat too. Extra protein is nice.)

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The second major addition I made to the recipe was a particular spice that I got introduced to a little while ago called ras el hanout. It’s a Moroccan spice blend that’s very smoky, slightly sweet, a little bit spicy, and extremely delicious. It’s often used in curries or in rice/couscous, but I thought that it would work pretty well to liven up that acidic and potentially flat tomato flavor of the shakshuka sauce. I was right. For my American friends, you can find a pouch of the ras el hanout at World Market for a very inexpensive price. If there are any Middle Eastern markets in your area then they’ll most likely have some there too. You can of course find it on Amazon too. However, if you’d rather do without, that’s fine: just substitute it with additional cumin.

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After you give the sauce time to cook down, it becomes robust and slightly thick with the added body from the meat and veggies. The flavors are really outstanding. You’ve got the acidity from the tomato, the smoky punch of flavor from the ras el hanout/cumin/paprika, the slight sweetness from the honey and the added flavor that the meat itself gives to it. You’ll kinda feel a little indulgent adding the eggs to finish the dish off, but who cares? I sure didn’t. Cook them until just set, then feel freed to spread and drag that runny yolk all through the sauce.

I got myself a short stack of sturdy pita bread and ate this dish entirely with my hands, using the bread as a spoon to dip and scoop up every single bit of the meaty/eggy sauce. And yes; I absolutely did use it to scrape the last bits up off the bottom until I’d pretty much wiped the bottom clean. Do.not.judge.me.

I hope you guys at Fiesta Friday #153 are hungry. I brought some Shakshuka and pita to share. Thanks to this week’s cohosts, Quinn @ Dad What’s 4 Dinner and Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes.

Shakshuka

Recipe Adapted from Serious Eats

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Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • One large sweet Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
  • One red bell pepper, thinly sliced,
  • 7 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 heaping tablespoons ras el hanout (Moroccan spice blend)
  • 2 heaping tablespoons cumin
  • 1 heaping tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 (28 ounce can) of pre-crushed tomatoes (or 1 -28 oz. can of whole, peeled tomatoes that you crush with a potato masher or whisk yourself)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • About 1 1/2 cups of browned ground beef, turkey or sausage (optional)
  • 4-6 large eggs
  • Handful of spinach, roughly chopped
  • Pita bread, for serving

 

Directions

Heat the canola oil in a large cast iron or non-stick skillet that’s around 2 inches deep. Add the red bell pepper and saute until softened and pepper begins to get limp, around 3-5 minutes. Add the onions and stir together with pepper until both soften and become slightly charred.

Add the garlic and continue to cook until fragrant about 1 minute more.

Add in the tomato paste,  ras el hanout, cumin, and smoked paprika. Allow to cook for about 2 to 3 more minutes until the spices release their fragrance, stirring frequently.

Add the crushed tomatoes, honey, bay leaves and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to just barely a simmer. Stir in the meat, if using. Allow to cook for about 15-20 more minutes until flavors have blended and sauce has begun to reduce/thicken. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt & pepper if needed. (If sauce becomes too thick, you can always add about 1/2 cup of water and stir to loosen)

Using a spoon, make small wells in the sauce around the perimeter of the skillet. Carefully crack eggs into the wells, spooning some of the sauce onto the whites and sprinkling some salt & pepper onto the eggs. Cover the skillet, reduce heat to lowest setting and allow to cook until eggs have cooked— whites just barely set and yolks have begun to firm—about 5-8 minutes.

Sprinkle sauce with the spinach and serve with the pita for dipping.

Pizza-Style Meatballs

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Happy Fiesta Friday #27, (hosted by Saucy @Saucy Gander and Margot @Gather and Graze)! Thanks to all of you who stopped and commented and liked my post last week. Not only was it my first time hosting Fiesta Friday, I also shared a bit of my own family heritage in relation to my My Grandma’s Banana Pudding. To date, it’s the most popular post I’ve ever done on the blog- something I really wasn’t expecting, but am very grateful for. Thank all of you for making me and my lovely Grandma feel so appreciated and welcome. I really do appreciate that.

One of the earliest memories that I have of pizza will always be associated with John, the guy that always made our Sunday night pizza at the local Papa John’s Pizza.

Now, this wasn’t a Papa John’s of the huge franchise with the jerk CEO that  to this day I absolutely refuse to buy from. This was a small, independent chain that I don’t even think went outside of our city. There was no design on the pizza boxes- they were just plain old white cardboard, with a piece of scotch tape pasted on the edge to keep it closed. They were also dirt cheap, which was really the only way that we could afford to eat pizza back then. (These were the much ‘leaner years’, you understand.) Every Sunday night, my mom would pile me and my sisters into the back of our 1988 Delta and we would drive down to the Papa John’s for our large pepperoni and ham pizza, where John the Pizza Guy would always, without fail, be there to greet us with a smile.

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If I close my eyes, I can still see his face. He was tall and ginger haired, with freckles all over his face and arms. His voice was nasal, and to be honest it reminded me of the voice of Telly from Sesame Street. l really liked him.  He had an infectious smile and in all the many times I saw him, I never once saw him in anything but a bright and cheery mood- despite the fact that he always seemed to be working in the store alone while one other guy that we never saw much of strictly did the pizza deliveries. John had a wife and (if my memory serves me right) four small children at home. I remember hearing about them and thinking that someone as nice as he was must have been a really good daddy, even if he couldn’t be with them on Sunday night.

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It may have been cheap, but that pizza was so good. The crust was crisp and browned on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The cheese was perfectly browned and not laid on too heavy, while the sauce was sweet and slightly thick. John sure could make a good pie, and we faithfully went to get it every Sunday night, then went home to watch The New Adventures of Lois & Clark (remember that show?) over dinner.

Unfortunately, that Papa John’s closed a while ago and has since been replaced with several other businesses that never seem to hang around that long. Still to this day, every time I drive past it I remember John the pizza guy with his warm smile and Telly-voice that made such good pizza for me and my family. It’s always a really good memory.

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Apart from loving pizza itself, I like trying out other foods that try and duplicate the flavor of pizza. It’s a great way to try and get your pizza fix in without constantly eating it all the time (not that I EVER get tempted to do that or anything). One weekend, I decided to make two dishes that would achieve just that, and I think the results were great.

I got this idea from a recipe for meatloaf that I’ve been using and loving for a pretty long time. Instead of making it into one loaf, I thought that I could instead mold it into meatballs, bake them off, then simmer them in a delicious pizza sauce.

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I could see these making a great appetizer or game food, but we just ate them as a main course over rotini pasta.

So, what’s the general consensus here?

If you like meatballs, you will love these. If you like pizza, you will love these.

If you don’t like either meatballs or pizza…you will still love these. Yep, you will.

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Pizza-Style Meatballs

Recipe Adapted from Ragu®

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 1 envelope Beefy Onion Soup Mix
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 cups garlic bread crumbs, plus about 3/4 cup extra
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup Pizza or tomato sauce

Pizza Sauce*

Note: You may want to double the pizza sauce recipe, depending on how much sauce you like with your meatballs.

  • 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil leaves
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1 whole bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp light brown sugar

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350° Place a wire rack over a half sheet pan and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

2. Combine first five ingredients in a bowl. (If mixture seems too wet, add more breadcrumbs. If too dry, add more pizza sauce.)

3. Shape meat into golf-ball sized meatballs and place onto wire rack. Bake in oven for about 15 minutes, then rotate meatballs and continue to bake for about 5-7 more minutes, or until crisp and browned on outside.

4. Meanwhile, make pizza sauce: combine all ingredients in a deep sauce pan or Dutch oven over medium heat until sauce begins to boil. Lower hear to a low simmer.

5. Remove meatballs from wire rack and GENTLY place into pot of pizza sauce. Cover, and allow to cook at a simmer, about 15-20 more minutes. Serve over rotini pasta or egg noodles.

 

 

Baked Spaghetti

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Here’s an interesting fact about me guys: I’m an identical twin.

For some reason, whenever people find this  out about me, they act like it’s the coolest thing since sliced bread. Their eyes get all big and they immediately subject me to a game of 21 questions where me and my twin sister Jasmine (I call her Jas) are supposed to answer every rumor, superstition and stereotype of twins that exists. And I’ve literally heard it all.

“What’s it like being a twin?” (After 24 years, I still don’t know to answer this to anyone’s satisfaction. I have an older sister and younger brother, the truth is that having a twin feels no different from having any other siblings.)

“Can you read each other’s minds?” (I really am tempted to just stare at people that ask me this until they actually begin to feel as stupid as what they just asked sounded.)

“Do you ever switch places to try and fool people?” (Uh, no. Just…no.)

“If I pinch you will she feel it?”  (No, I’m not making it up. I hear this ALL.THE.TIME. And yes, Some people have actually tried to pinch me).

“SISTA SISTAAA!” (In case you didn’t know, that’s taken from the Tia and Tamera Mowry television show from the 90s, “Sister Sister”. Jas and I have had it sung to us more times than we’d care to remember. It’s very annoying.)

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All of the cliche stuff about twins aside, I will be honest and say that Jas really is one of my closest friends. She knows me better than just about anybody in the world, and vice versa. The telepathic/empathic connection between twins isn’t real, but Jas and I are close enough  and friends to the point where we can look at each other and make an instinctual guess as to what the other is thinking depending on the circumstances. But really that’s just because she’s been around me more than anyone else and we’ve had a lot of shared experiences and have a lot of inside jokes. There’s no ‘magic’ to it or anything. I’m sure some of you have friends or regular siblings that you’re like that with too.

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Anyway. One of the things that Jas and I do NOT have in common is a love of cooking. Not that she can’t cook at all, it’s that she just doesn’t like to do it all that much. Now, I already shared before that my older sister Ashley loves the meat pies that I make for her. I also said that Jas likes baked spaghetti. Actually, no. I said that she could eat the stuff every day. That was not an exaggeration.

Jas LOVES baked spaghetti. Really, really, REALLY loves it.  I’d say it was right up there at the top of the list of her favorite foods, along with salmon, Teddy Grahams and chocolate milk. This baked spaghetti that I make for her is on a regular rotation in our house. I can make a lot of it at a time, and it pretty much doesn’t get any easier than this so far as easy meals go.

There are however 3 things that anyone cooking Jas baked spaghetti MUST remember: she wants lots of meat, she wants lots of sauce, and she doesn’t want a lot of cheese. So just keep that in mind when you make this recipe for yourself-my twin sister is a meat and sauce lover, and a cheese hater. However, since this recipe is so easy, you can always adjust the ratio of ingredients to suit you and your family’s taste.

FEED(ME) BACK: What’s a question you’ve always wanted to ask a twin? (Yes. I’ll answer anything you ask me…within reason.)

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Baked Spaghetti

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef, browned and drained
  • 9.6 oz fully cooked sausage crumbles
  • 8-8.5 oz of angel hair pasta
  • 6 oz (1 can) tomato paste
  • 13 oz tomato sauce
  • 1/2 teasp pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 heaping teaspoon light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teasp garlic salt
  • 1/2 cup green pepper, diced
  • 1 and 1/2 cup of Italian style cheese, shredded
  • 2 oz pepperoni (About 40 slices)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 9 x 12 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

2. Heat a  pot over medium heat. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, brown sugar, garlic salt and green pepper and stir to combine.

3. When tomato paste has completely dissolved into sauce, add the sausage crumbles and ground beef. Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.

4.  Cook and drain pasta according to package directions.

5. Layer pasta, sauce and cheese in baking dish, making sure you start and end with sauce.

6. Bake in preheated oven for thirty minutes. Remove from oven and place pepperoni over the top of casserole, then sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Bake for about 5-7 minutes more, until cheese in melted. Remove from oven, let stand for about 10 minutes. Serve.