Shakshuka and My First Experience with Cast Iron

I recently picked up a couple of pieces of cast iron cookware to try. I’ve been reading a lot about it, particularly in the Cast Iron Cookbook group on Facebook. I am a cast iron newbie, and have been reluctant to try it because I was under the impression that it couldn’t be used on glasstops. Wrong! It is in fact safe to use on glasstops; just no sliding across the top, and take care when you put it down on the top. The pans I picked up were pre-seasoned Lodge cast iron. Some people recommended seasoning them, some said it was okay to just wash with hot water and use them. With my first piece, I just washed the pan and got going.

My good friend posted a picture of Shakshuka that he had made for dinner and I got inspired. Shakshuka is a lovely dish of Tunisian origin, eggs cooked softly in a spicy tomato sauce. First introduced and popular in Israel, is a staple of Middle Eastern cuisines, and is traditionally served in a cast iron pan or tajine with bread to mop up the sauce. There are many different variations on Shakshuka, below is my version of this delicious dish (adapted from Tori Avey’s page). Next I believe I will tackle Yotam Ottolenghi’s and Sami Tamimi’s version in the stunning Jerusalem cookbook.

I use harissa-infused olive oil in this recipe, but plain olive oil works just as well. I also used fresh tomato sauce that my mom canned in the summer. Luckily I was the beneficiary of a good supply of pints of this summer deliciousness.

Oh, and as for the cast iron….I’m in LOVE!!! 🙂


2 tbsp harissa-infused olive oil
1/2 medium brown or white onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 14 oz. can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 14 oz. can tomato sauce
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp medium chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp hot Spanish paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
5-6 eggs
1/2 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro (optional)

Heat a deep, large skillet or sauté pan on medium. Slowly warm the olive oil in the pan. Add chopped onion and sauté for a few minutes until the onion begins to soften. Add the garlic and continue to sauté till mixture is fragrant.

Add the bell pepper, sauté for 5-7 minutes over medium until softened.

Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste to the pan, stir till blended. Add the spices, stir well, and allow mixture to simmer over medium heat for 5-7 minutes till it starts to reduce. Taste the mixture and spice it according to your preferences. Add salt and pepper to taste, a bit of sugar if you like a sweeter sauce, or more cayenne pepper for a spicier Shakshuka (be careful with the cayenne… it is extremely spicy!).

Crack the eggs, one at a time, directly over the tomato mixture, making sure to space them evenly over the sauce. I usually place 4-5 eggs around the outer edge and 1 in the center. The eggs will cook “over easy” style on top of the tomato sauce.

Cover the pan. Allow mixture to simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked and the sauce has slightly reduced. Keep an eye on the skillet to make sure that the sauce doesn’t reduce too much, which may lead to burning.

If you like your eggs runny with Shakshuka, let the sauce reduce for a few minutes before cracking the eggs on top. Then cover the pan and cook the eggs to taste.

Garnish with the chopped cilantro, if desired; and serve with a warm, crusty bread to mop up the sauce. Enjoy! 🙂


Sous Vide Lobster Tails

I have been wanting to try sous vide cooking for some time, and on the recommendation of my colleagues bought myself a Sansaire for Christmas. Being one of those people who has a lot of kitchen ‘gadgets’, and very susceptible to advertising of new ones, I wanted a sous vide unit that would be easy to store. The Sansaire is just perfect. It’s a tall, black tower that you immerse partially into water for sous vide cooking. It stores easily, and doesn’t take up the room that something with a water receptacle would. For those that are curious, you can cool down bottles of wine very quickly with this baby as well. 🙂

Clean Catch had a huge selection of seafood in for the holidays, and I picked up two 10 ounce lobster tails with the rest of my order. I did some research on sous vide and cooking lobster, and it went all the way from 17 minutes to 41 minutes at 140 deg. F. Most of the articles were close to the 40 minute mark. Armed with my new toy, off I went into the kitchen.

My lobster tails came out very tender, with the entire tail cooked the same. Cooking in the water bath preserves the true taste of the lobster, which other methods don’t always do. I would cook these over and over again, and I can’t wait to try a variety of things with the Sansaire.

The Tails

2 10 oz lobster tails
4 Tbsp high quality butter; I used Plugra European Style, Kerrygold Irish works as well
2 tsp of your favorite seafood seasoning; I used Savory Spice Shop’s Cherry Creek Seafood Seasoning
Quartered lemons, for serving

In a pot big enough to hold water to be between the minimum and maximum lines on the Sansaire, fill it appropriately, keeping in mind that you will be adding food to it. Immerse the Sansaire, and set it to 140 deg. F.

Remove the meat from the lobster tails. I’ve found the easiest way to do this is to cut down the middle of the front and the back of the tail with seafood shears, and then carefully work the meat away from the shell. You can also blanch them for a minute to make the meat easier to remove.

Lobster tails.

Put the tail meat, with 1 Tbsp of butter and 1 tsp of seafood seasoning, into a Food Saver bag. If you don’t have Food Saver bags, you can use a normal plastic zip and lock bag. Remove all the air from the bag and seal it using the machine. If using a normal plastic bag, lower the bag slowly into the water. The water will displace the air in the bag. When you are near the top, zip it closed.

Lobster tails ready to be cooked.

When your bags are sealed, confirm the water temperature is at 140 deg. F., and drop them into their bath. Leave them alone for 41 minutes.

Sansaire cooking the lobster.

After the time has passed, remove them from the water and from their bags. Serve with lemon quarters and two Tbsp. drawn butter. Enjoy!!

Finished sous vide lobster tails.

Paprika-Spiced Pork and Sauerkraut Stew

As the trees start to turn in the Carolinas, and the air gets a bit crisp, it’s nice to spend a Sunday in relaxing and cooking for the afternoon. Tonight’s dinner – a richly-spiced, deeply savory, complex dish, arrived at through overnight marinating and slow cooking.

The pork in this dish is marinated at least overnight, I marinated for two nights. I adapted this from Food and Wine, with a couple of tweaks to make it a richer stew. I love sauerkraut, so doubled the amount; and also added less liquid than the original. I browned the meat in grapeseed oil instead of canola oil. Grapeseed oil has a higher heat tolerance than most oils, and I wanted a very good sear on the pork.

The prep is pretty easy for this one, and it makes you hungry while it cooks! I could almost taste it while it was softly simmering away through the afternoon, the fragrance from the paprika floating warmly through the house.

Enjoy! 🙂

Paprika-Spiced Pork and Sauerkraut Stew

6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 red bell peppers, chopped
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
Kosher salt
2 pounds trimmed pork shoulder, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup Hungarian sweet paprika
2 teaspoons Hungarian hot paprika
2 pounds sauerkraut, drained
One 750-ml bottle red wine
1 quart low-sodium beef broth
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
2 bay leaves
2 Hungarian wax, banana or Cubanelle peppers, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon black pepper
Cooked wide egg noodles, for serving
Crème fraîche or sour cream, for serving

Puree half of the garlic, bell peppers and onions with 1 tablespoon of salt until smooth in a food processor. Pour the mixture into a large bowl, add the pork cubes and stir to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

Drain the pork, wipe off any marinade and pat dry with paper towels; this is important to get a good sear. In a large Dutch oven, heat the grapeseed oil. Working in batches, add the pork to the pot and brown over moderate heat, turning once, about 4 minutes per batch. Do not crowd the pieces of pork, or they will steam instead of searing. Transfer the browned pork to a plate. Add the tomato paste to the pot and cook, stirring, until lightly caramelized, about 2 minutes. Add both of the paprikas and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Return the pork to the pot and add the sauerkraut, wine, broth, marjoram and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the pork is nearly tender, about 1 1/2 hours.

Stir in the remaining garlic, bell peppers and onions. Add the Hungarian wax peppers and cook until the pork and vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes longer. Discard the bay leaves. Stir in the black pepper and season with salt. Serve in bowls over egg noodles with a dollop of crème fraîche.

MAKE AHEAD: The finished stew can be refrigerated for up to 3 days before serving.

Sunday Papers

All of my posts so far have been food-related, but today I am thinking about the Sunday paper.

A staple. When I was a child, every week my grandparents would pour through the Sunday paper. They read all the daily papers during the week, but the Sunday paper was a time of reflection and relaxation. I remember them sitting on the front porch with all windows open, reading the paper and trading stories. They both worked so hard during the week, and my Mom can attest to them working so much harder when she was a child. Sunday was the day for them to go to church and just relax. Chicken and dumplings may or may not have followed.

Out on the front porch, with the breeze from the St. Lawrence flowing in. I didn’t realize how good this was until I moved to land-locked Charlotte. 🙂 Don’t get me wrong – I love my city. More and more I miss those lazy summer days on the river. I miss the fresh air coming from that river, and I miss the absolute silence at night. Crickets…I hated you in New York, but I love you now. You sing a happy song that I miss so much. You are welcome in my house, please sing me a song.

It’s interesting how perspectives change and evolve. I value my life where I live, but just as much I miss where I grew up. I look forward to spending the month of September in a camp on Wilson Hill, with the St. Lawrence as my front yard. I hope my mom will bring me the Sunday paper and spend Sundays with me, relaxing with the river as my grandparents once did.

European Dover Sole Meuniѐre

The first and only time I had Dover Sole, it was, for lack of a better word, magnificent. Sautéed to a golden brown, served with a lush and decadent butter sauce, accented with capers and lemon. Definitely not an everyday meal, to be enjoyed for a special occasion.

The very best European Dover Sole comes from Holland, and is not often found in the US. It should not be confused with Pacific Dover sole, which is not a true sole and is related more closely to flounder. Clean Catch advertised they had fourteen of these special European fish fresh out of the water in Holland and on the way via overnight this week, with the description:

‘The flesh has an exceptional density, with tightly packed flakes that are amazingly juicy. Their aroma when cooked will remind you of savory bacon, and the flavor has a hazelnut sweetness you won’t find in any other fish. There is a buttery richness on the mouth, with an ocean flavor that dissipates slowly with each bite. Dover sole is an indulgence, an experience one you will not experience with any other fish.’

I decided to indulge.

Where to start. The most prominent chef to profess her love for this special fish was Julia Child. In My Life in France, she wrote that eating Sole Meuniѐre on her arrival in France was ‘an epiphany’. I pulled out my copy of Julia’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but much to my dismay Sole Meuniѐre was not included. A Bing search yielded her recipe from The Way to Cook; I tweaked it a bit to my liking. In this recipe, I use cilantro instead of parsley, sauté the fish in butter-infused olive oil, and add lemon and cilantro directly to the butter sauce.

1 European Dover Sole, filleted, skinned, with head removed
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup flour
2 Tablespoons organic butter-infused olive oil (or other high quality olive oil)
4 tablespoons of clarified butter
Fresh cilantro, chopped
2 Tablespoons capers
Juice of ½ lemon
Lemon wedges and cilantro

Layout and pat dry the fillets. Season with salt and pepper. Dredge in a light coating of flour, brushing off excess with your fingers.

Heat the clarified butter slowly on low-medium heat in a small saucepan.

Add the olive oil to a large skillet on medium-high heat. When the oil heats up, place filets in the pan, without overcrowding, about 3 to 4 to a skillet. Brown on one side about 1 to 2 minutes, and carefully flip over to brown the other side.

While the fish is finishing browning, add the capers and lemon to the butter. Be aware that these have a pretty violent reaction, and will spatter. Cover with foil if you like until the reaction stops. Add the chopped cilantro and stir gently.

Remove fish to a platter. Spoon the lemon-caper butter sauce over fish. Garnish with lemon wedges and cilantro. Serve immediately.

C’est magnifique! 🙂

European Dover Sole Meuniere

Pickled Shrimp

Although sadly my Patriots did not make it to the Super Bowl this year, the Seahawks did and that’s definitely a great reason for a celebration! Looking for an easy appetizer for our Super Bowl celebration, I decided on Pickled Shrimp. Make it the night before, and quick to be on the table on game day. 🙂

I use 16/20 shrimp in this recipe, but you’re free to use whatever size you prefer. If you’re packing to someone else’s party, this would look great in a mason jar! Makes 1 quart.

Pickled Shrimp

8 1/3 cups of water
Kosher salt
2 lbs 16/20 shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
1 cup high quality olive oil
2 cups cider vinegar
8 bay leaves
3 teaspoons crushed red pepper
4 cloves garlic, chopped in large chunks
1 lemon, thinly sliced, remove seeds
1/3 cup capers in brine, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 tsp celery seeds

Bring 8 cups of water to a boil, and add 6 Tablespoons of kosher salt. Add the shrimp and boil for two minutes, until they are just pink. Drain the shrimp and let cool.

Combine all the remaining ingredients, including the 1/3 cup of water, in a large bowl. Stir and add 2 teaspoons of salt. Taste and add more salt as desired. Add the shrimp and stir, making sure all the shrimp are submerged. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Enjoy! 🙂

Tuna au Poivre with Red Wine Sauce

Steak au Poivre used to be one of my favorites when I was still eating red meat. Now that I’m a pescatarian and eat only fish and seafood, I decided to try a twist on the original with yellowfin tuna. It turned out to be a fantastic dish that I’ll definitely go back to, nice presentation for company as well.

Instead of just the standard peppercorn crust, I also added some Chinese Five Spice. I love this spice, it’s a mixture of peppercorns, star anise, cloves, cinnamon, and fennel; and covers five flavors – sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty. The flavors pair very well with tuna, and I also use it when making Tuna Tataki.

I served the beautiful cut of yellowfin tuna with garlic mash and French greens as sides.

Yellowfin Tuna

3/4 lb fresh tuna, cut into 2 steaks about 1-inch thick
Fresh Coarsely Ground Peppercorns
Chinese Five Spice
Olive oil

1 tablespoon butter
2 shallots, finely diced
1 cup red wine
1 cup vegetable broth

Season tuna steaks with salt. Sprinkle both sides with Chinese Five Spice and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and rub to coat evenly. Let marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes; or refrigerate for up to 4 hours and bring to room temperature before cooking.

For the red wine sauce:
Melt butter over medium-high heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add wine and simmer until reduced by half. Add vegetable broth and reduce until 1 cup sauce remains, about 10 minutes. Season with salt, set aside and keep warm.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, lay in steaks and sear for 2 minutes, until nicely browned. Flip and cook 1 minute more for rare, 2 minutes for medium rare. Serves 2.

Tuna au Poivre with Red Wine Sauce