Shakshuka [Single Serving]

I love some good alliteration, don’t you?

Shakshuka is something that I’ve grown a love for, especially as my hatred of runny yolks has cooled significantly over the past few years. About two years ago, for a quick post-work dinner, I impulsively decided to spoon some marinara sauce over some sliced hard boiled eggs, and I found it to be a odd yet satisfying choice. My former roommate Emily (whom I miss every single damn day) had an enthusiasm for Shakshuka, telling me about her love for it and how she’s had it in Israel many a time.

IMG_5961

Oh hey there, typical tiny Manhattan Kitchen…

I now regret not attempting to make a full-size of this recipe when you were around, Em! What a fool I was!

IMG_5972

I promise, if and when I get myself down to Raleigh-Durham to visit you, I’ll make you a skillet. You don’t have to share it with anyone!

IMG_5988

In the meantime, I’ll just craft a recipe for all of us single eaters.

IMG_6001

Shakshuka

Shakshuka [Single Serving]
(Serves One…if you were unable to deduce that)

Ingredients:

– 1 to 2 eggs
– 1 cup crushed tomatoes or 1 cup marinara sauce
– 1 tablespoon tomato paste
– 1/4 small yellow or white onion, diced
– 1/2 bell pepper, diced (pick your favorite color!)
– 1 clove garlic, minced
– 1/4 teaspoon cumin
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– Cilantro, for garnish (optional)
– Feta, for garnish (optional)
– Salt and pepper, to taste

Before We Get Started…

– It is entirely possible that you don’t have tomato paste. Goodness knows that I normally don’t have any on reserve. You can skip adding it, but I think it adds an extra depth of flavor. If you would like to create your own, there are many articles available via search engines regarding substitutions and creating your own tomato paste. However, for this individual-sized serving, I’d suggest going out and getting that small can of tomato paste. I got mine for 79 cents. Haaa.

– This recipe is best baked in an 8″ – 9″ oven-safe skillet or a ramekin with a 2 cup capacity.

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 375°F.

2.) Pour oil into a large skillet and warm over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and pepper and sauté until onions are translucent, approximately 4 – 5 minutes; if garlic starts to brown too fast, lower heat. Add tomatoes (or sauce), tomato paste, and cumin. Stir to combine. Simmer for 4 – 5 minutes. Transfer tomato mixture to ramekin or oven-safe skillet. (See Before We Get Started…; though it is an extra skillet to wash, it’s much easier to cook the tomato mixture in a larger skillet than a smaller oven-safe skillet.) 

3.) With the back of a spoon, make an indentation in the tomato mixture. Crack egg(s) into indentation, being sure not to break the yolk(s).

4.) Place skillet or ramekin in oven and cook for 18 – 20 minutes or until whites are set and yolks are thick but runny. If preferred, at the ten minute mark, baste egg whites lightly with the tomato mixture, taking care not to disturb the yolk; return to oven to cook for the remaining time.

5.) Remove from oven. Top with cilantro and feta, if desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately, preferably with thick toasted bread.

Chilled Cucumber Avocado Soup

The summer solstice has occurred, and, with it, the start of chilled soup season. The dog days of summer are upon us, if I can be clichéd. As I sit here, typing out this prose, it’s 90 degrees with a line of severe thunderstorms looming to the west. The humidity is making both my body and brain listless. The last thing I want to do cook, bake, or put much heat-induced effort into meal creation. Over the years, I have adapted a pretty strict summer diet. On any given night, I’m usually eating some combination of an avocado, cucumbers dressed with plain Greek yogurt and garlic powder, cheddar cheese, pineapple, prosciutto on toast, and unsweetened iced tea. It may lack in nutritional balance, but…damn. It’s always satisfying. The stove glares at me from afar, and I tell it, “I’ll see you again at the end of September.”

cucumber

So hot, even my cucumber is sweating!

Over the years, I’ve toyed with various cold soups, and the results have never really pleased me. Gazpacho is easy, yet admittedly time-consuming. I always find an excuse to buy it from the store because Westside Market / Fairway / Whole Foods / Samad’s Gourmet / anyone else makes it better than I do! (Damn self-loathing.) As for vichyssoise, my paternal grandmother, Mamie, had that on lock. I have yet to create a batch as good as hers. Then comes the oft-consumed cucumber yogurt soup. It’s simple. It’s light. It’s relatively filling. I can make it with four ingredients. However, one misstep in the recipe, and I’ll end up with unpalatable pale green water. Needless to say, I’ve made a lot of unpalatable plate green water over the years. I’ve played with ratios for more times than I care to count: more cucumbers, fewer cucumbers, different kinds of cucumbers, Greek yogurt instead of plain yogurt, fresh dill versus dried dill, less olive oil, you name it. However, I must mark June 22nd, 2015, as the day I finally got my figurative shit together and had my true “Aha!” moment.

Avocados, is there anything you can’t do?

My past cucumber yogurt soup recipes (or abominations, if I may continue to self-loathe) achieved a creamy mouth feel once I made the transition from plain to Greek yogurt, but the avocado gives it full body. Dare I say, fresh out of the blender, it’s almost fluffy. In addition, I decided to add some lemon zest and juice, helping it achieve a wonderful brightness.

IMG_4237

Goodbye unpalatable pale green water, hello full-bodied and bright moss green soup!

(Okay, I’m still working on better descriptive terms. One thing at a time, eh?)

IMG_4243

Chilled Cucumber Avocado Soup
(Serves Four)

Ingredients:

– 2 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped
– 1 avocado, cubed
– 6 ounces plain Greek yogurt (full-fat)
– 1 & 1/2 cups cold water
– 1 teaspoon dried dill
– 1 teaspoon garlic powder
– Zest of 1 lemon
– Juice of half a lemon
– Salt and pepper, to taste

Before We Get Started…

– If making en masse and saving servings for lunches / dinners for the week, be sure to give each batch a good stir or shake before eating, as there tends to be a slight separation of ingredients after it’s sat in the fridge.

– Depending on the size of the blender / food processor being used to blend the soup, combine ingredients in batches, if necessary.

– If I do say so myself, these are best served with some freshly toasted crusty white bread and a few slices of prosciutto.

IMG_4265

Directions:

1.) Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor, and blend until creamy.

2.) Serve immediately, or place in fridge until ready to serve.

IMG_4244

IMG_4251

IMG_4273

Prosciutto Toasts and Cucumber Dreams, until next time…!

Classic Mac & Cheese

There is little in this world that I find more comforting than a hot bowl of macaroni and cheese. Long gone are the days of neon-yellow Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Spirals, for I no longer have the “Blue Box Blues“. As much I love a box of Annie’s in a pinch, all of these boxed mac and cheeses are loaded with sodium, regardless. (How I’d come home from school in my teenage years and down an entire box without exploding is still beyond me…) Of course, like many, I love to experiment with different cheeses, noodles, vegetables, and methods when it comes to mac and cheese creation. Still, in my opinion, it’s the simplest method that works the best for me. In just an extra five minutes compared to ripping open a box of dried noodles and questionable powder in a packet, you can make a perfectly satisfying bowl of mac and cheese with the full knowledge of what ingredients you’ve put into it.

mac and cheese

Slate counter top and old metal measuring cups. Instagram ready! 

Classic Mac & Cheese
(Serves Two if you’re generous, Serves One if you’re selfish)

Ingredients:
– 1 cup dried pasta of choice (I prefer a whole-wheat elbow or rotini pasta)
– 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
– 2 tablespoons salted butter
– 1/3 cup milk
– 4 ounces shredded cheese (I prefer 3 ounces of sharp cheddar with an ounce of Colby Jack; feel free to switch it up!)
-A few generous shakes of garlic powder (optional)

Before We Get Started…

This recipe involves making a roux, since you’ll essentially be making a Béchamel sauce. Some rouxs can be made darker than others, but we’re making a simple white roux in this case. Make it with a whisk, if possible, but I find it just as good to use a fork to mix a roux.

…and if you don’t have a clue what I’m talking about when I say “roux”, this is a pretty good introduction.

Directions:

1.) Fill saucepan with water and bring to boil; cook pasta according to directions on box. Drain when finished, rinse, and set aside.

2.) Place additional saucepan over medium heat; add butter and slowly melt. Once melted, add flour. Whisk for approximately 2 – 3 minutes to create a roux ; once flour and butter are combined, add milk and whisk. Bring mixture to a slow boil. Once bubbles begin to break the surface, add cheese and stir quickly to form cheese sauce. Remove from heat. Add garlic powder, if desired. Add pasta and stir.

cheese blind
My future, and I’m okay with this.