Thursday, July 24, 2014

Comfort food for a summer rain.

I don't know about you but when it's raining I feel like eating something warm and comforting.  Sometimes, that's difficult to do when it's a rainy day in the summertime.  You have all these summery vegetables that I associate with hot weather and what I really want is a nice yummy soup of sorts.  Well, after a long hot streak we are finally having some much needed rain and I needed a meal to go with it.  So I'm making Shashuka (Eggs Poached in Spicy Tomato Sauce).  I got this idea a long time ago when I found that I had WAY too many peppers to use up from my CSA box.  Shakshuka is an awesome meal that works for rainy days and uses up those summer peppers.

Joes Gardens has a really nice and varried selection of peppers right now.  If you make this you can make it as sweet or spicy as you like.  All their peppers are clearly labled so you can tell what's sweet and what's spicy.  If for some reason you are confused you can always ask.  Everyone there knows their stuff. 

I got my Shakshuka recipe from  If you haven't visited this site you really should. It really is an impressive cooking site and I love how organized the recipes are.  I dream of my blog looking similar to this but I don't have a staff or the skills, so I go for the simple over here.  My blog isn't fancy but it's me.  Simple and real.  Yep that's what I do here.

As always I fiddle with my recipes. was my inspiration but I changed things up a bit.  Here's my adaptation of Shashuka.

Jenn's Shashuka 
(adapted from

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 12 oz. jar roasted red peppers in garlic and olive oil (drained)
  • 2 Annaheim peppers (charred)
  • 1 sweet red pepper (charred)
  • 1 small onion
  • 5 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 29 oz. can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sheep milk feta (very important for the lactose-intolerant)
  • 1 tbsp. chopped cilantro
  • warm Naan bread for serving

Preheat oven on broiler setting.  When oven is hot place the fresh peppers on the upper rack below the element.  Turn every few minutes and charr each side of the pepper.  After peppers are severely blackened place them in a heat proof bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  The heat from the peppers will steam them.  When cooled remove the plastic wrap and prepare the peppers. Slide the inside stems, seeds, and outer blackened skins from the peppers and throw away.  Chop the flesh of the peppers and set aside.
Heat oil in a 12 inch skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat.  Add peppers (including the jared ones) and onion and cook until soft and golden brown.  About 6 minutes.  Add garlic, cumin, and smoked paprika and cook 2 more minutes. 
Add tomatoes and 1/2 cup water to the skillet and reduce heat to medium and simmer.  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.  Cook until the mixture has thickened slightly (about 15 minutes).  Taste and see if the sauce requires salt. 
Crack eggs over sauce so that eggs are evenly distrubted across sauce's surface.  Cover the skillet and cook until yolks are just set (about 5 minutes).  Sprinkle shakshuka with feta and cilantro. Serve with Naan bread for dipping.

I start this dish early.  I get everything prepped so that all I have to do is prepare the eggs right before dinner.  If you prep it like this dinner only takes about 10 minutes to prepare in the end.  I serve this with a nice spicy Spanish red wine.  I recently made a big run to Seifert and Jones yesterday so I'm all stocked up. 

This is my comfort food and busy day meal.  If you have the prep time it comes together quickly and easily.  Have fun and let me know what worked for you.

I am also making a basic side salad to go with this.  Just romaine lettuce with a spicy vinaigrette.  Here's the recipe. 

Ensalada Mora (salad with cumin and paprika) 
from LaCocina De Mama' by Penelope Casas

3/4 tsp. ground cumin
1 large clove of garlic (crushed)
1/2 tsp. paprika (preferably smoked)
1 tbsp mince parsley ( I used cilantro)
Kosher salt
4 tsp. red wine vinegar
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
4 cups tender romaine leaves

Whisk spices, garlic, herbs, and 1 tsp. salt. Whisk in vinegar and olive oil. 
Toss dressing with greens and serve. 
**Optional:  Add croutons or toasted pine nuts or walnuts to the salad. 

Here's the Spanish red that we had with our meal tonight.  Seifert and Jones are having a free tasting of Spanish reds this Saturday at 2:00pm with a local importer.  Here's the link to access more information on the events hosted by my favorite wine merchant.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cucumbers are in season. Here's what's cookin'.

Summer is a tough time to post.  The kids are at my heels and carving out time to write is a challenge.  Therefore I'm going to try something new.  
I'm going to try writing shorter but more frequent posts and using the Blogger App on my phone.  I've become a bit lazy and am relying too much on my Facebook page.   I need to direct more traffic here, so here goes nothin. 

My cucumbers are actually going nuts right now.  I got my starts at Joes Gardens and that's just the additional time they needed to get growing.  Yesterday I picked three big boys that are at least 12 inches long.
They are English cucumbers and are my favorite.  So now what?  One if the biggest problems with home gardening is what to do with all the produce you have outside your door.  It's a good problem to have, but it's still a problem.  Here's where my cookbook and culinary magazine addiction can benefit you. This months recent edition of Food and Wine Magazine had a nice recipe for cold cucumber soup that calls for 2 stinking pounds of cucumbers!!!  Yep, that'll do quite nicely.  My husband Matt is riding his bike today and visiting our favorite local seafood place Vis Seafoods on his way home from work.  He's going to pick up the salmon and I will be making the soup.  
Here's my adaptation of the recipe.  Remember I'm lactose intolerant so I have to modify these things. Have fun, take a look, and leave a comment or question. 

Cold Cucumber Soup
(Adapted from Justin Chapple's Tangy Cucumber Soup)

2 lbs. English cucumbers-halved, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1/2 cup plain yogurt ( strained or Greek)
3 tbsp. lemon juice
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (extra for garnish)
2 tsp. chopped dill
1 tsp. chopped tarragon 
Salt & pepper to taste

This recipe calls for Greek yogurt.  I don't usually have that in my fridge so to compensate I just strain the yogurt that I can digest at home.  
Line a fine mesh strainer with cheesecloth and scoop about 2/3 cup of your favorite local plain yogurt into it. Tie the corners of the cheesecloth together with kitchen string, attach to a wooden spoon and hang over a bowl to catch the excess liquid (the whey). Strain the yogurt for at least an hour.  The longer you strain it, the thicker the yogurt. 
Peel, seed and chop 2lbs of cucumbers. For me this was about 2 large English cucumbers. 
In a blender or food processor purée the cucumbers, yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, dill, and tarragon. When blending gradually add in the olive oil until smooth and silky.  Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until chilled (at least 30 minutes). Salt and pepper to taste. 
Serve in chilled bowls, drizzle with olive oil, and garnish with extra dill. 

A few notes. This soup can easily be used as a sauce for fish.  Today I served it as a side of soup to go with some local salmon.  Serve with a dry wwhite or dry Rose wine.  We've been enjoying some fantastic Spanish varietals this year. 
Not sure where to go for wind in Bellingham?  I highly recommend Seifert and Jones. It's my favorite place in town to get a quality wine.  

Here's some pics for us visual folks.