Emily’s Home Cooking

Shakshuka & Harissa

Shakshuka

Shakshuka is a comfort food that has gained popularity at many chic brunch establishments in the United States of late, but it has long been a staple meal in North African households throughout the world.

This is one of those dishes that one’s mother is always reported to have made best – think of a homey garden tomato sauce and you will be halfway there – and that is just the kind of challenge that I love.

Shakshuka is also an ideal dish for early fall when the best deals to be had are for blemished, slightly mashed and often cracked ripe tomatoes straight from the field (the same reason I’ve added some of the season’s last zucchini) and a good dish to remember during the cold months when canned tomatoes are best enjoyed.

In short, this rustic meal consists of eggs simmered in ripe tomatoes, peppers, and spices and served with a cooling dollop of yogurt (thick, sheeps-milk labneh if you want to be a purist) and fresh bread or pita for mopping up the beautiful sauce created when the tomato mingles with egg yolk.

The dish is mainly seasoned with harissa, a Tunisian chili paste which can be bought at the grocery store for easy – but you should know that it is rather satisfying to make your own, particularly when sweet peppers and chilis are still available locally as they are now.

I have included the recipes below, both adaptations from ‘Jerusalem,’ Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s lovely collaborative cookbook. 

Shakshuka Ingredients:

Ripe tomatoes (4-6, extra-large dice)
Red sweet pepper (1, large dice)
Zucchini (1, large dice)
Garlic (3 cloves, minced)
Harissa (2 tablespoons)
Tomato paste (1 tablespoon)
Cumin (1 teaspoon)
Salt (1 teaspoon)
Olive oil (2 tablespoons)
Eggs (4-6)
Yogurt (1 cup, for serving)
Fresh pita (or other good bread)

Shakshuka Method:

Add oil to a hot pan over medium-high heat, then add garlic, red pepper, and zucchini. 
Cook, stirring frequently, for 4-5 minutes until the vegetables have begun to brown and soften.

Add salt, cumin, tomato paste, harissa, and tomatoes, stirring well, and turn down the heat to medium. 

Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes until the tomatoes have cooked down and the sauce has begun to thicken. 

Create small wells in the sauce with the back of the spoon for the eggs. (You may crack them into a small bowl first to avoid eggshell-bits or the occasional bad egg).

At this point you may cover your pan tightly and continue to simmer for 6-8 minutes while your eggs cook, or if your pan is oven-safe you can move it uncovered into a hot oven (about 375) for 4-6 minutes. 

(These times are entirely dependent on the size of your eggs, so keep a close eye and pull them as soon as they have set until you are practiced at this).

Serve at once with yogurt and bread and enjoy!

Harissa Ingredients:

Red onion (4 tablespoons, minced)
Garlic (4 cloves, minced)
Red sweet pepper (Roasted & diced)
Hot chili peppers (2-3, minced)
Tomato paste (2 teaspoons)
Cumin (1 teaspoon)
Coriander (1 teaspoon)
Olive oil (2 tablespoons)
Lemon juice (fresh-squeezed, 2 tablespoons)

Harissa Method:

Add oil to a pan over medium-high heat, then add red onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until they start to become toasted and brown. 

Add cumin and coriander, stir, and allow spices to toast until you begin to smell them. 

Add hot chili peppers and tomato paste and cook for one more minute, then remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

Add lemon juice and roasted pepper, and then blend your harissa into a thick paste.

This will make about 1/2 a cup, enough for several batches of shakshuka, and covered tightly and refrigerated will keep for up to two weeks.


Kofta B'Siniyah

Kofta B'Siniyah

When local gardens become jungles the best produce can be found (cheap) at every roadside, and sometimes even abandoned on your doorstep unannounced. 

It’s easy to eat a lot of tomato toast and cucumber salads – for awhile. Suddenly you realize that a perfect Caprese salad isn’t as exciting as it should be. The gorgeousness of the long-awaited harvest has almost jaded us… almost.   

This is the ideal time to de-mystify a cooking style you want to eat at home more often, and in my case I was eager to jump on the Middle-Eastern bandwagon, a trendy style of fusion representing the melting pot of cultures spanning a swathe of the world from Tunisia to Greece. 

The following recipe is adapted from Jerusalem, one of several beautiful books of recipes from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, which I highly recommend: spiced meatballs with warm tahini sauce, toasted pine nuts, and a drizzle of butter. 

Served with pita or basmati rice, this dish is the perfect vehicle for beautiful chopped cucumbers and tomatoes. It will be a hit even with the uninitiated (imagine the flavors of a gyro sandwich) and it is the perfect way to rediscover your late-summer harvest.

Ingredients:

Kofta:

1 pound ground lamb or beef
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
3 cloves garlic
1 small onion
1 large hot chili pepper 
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped (optional)
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped (optional)
1 teaspoon each: salt, pepper, cinnamon, & allspice
3 tablespoons vegetable oil (for browning)

Tahini Sauce:

3 tablespoons tahini 
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt

For Serving:

3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
3 tablespoons melted butter or ghee
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

Method:

Tahini Sauce:

Finely mince garlic, then crush with the side of your blade, scraping gently against your cutting board until your garlic clove is a pulpy mess. Combine thoroughly with tahini, lemon juice, water, and salt, and chill until ready to use.

Kofta:

If you are fresh-toasting your pine nuts for your kofta and sprinkling at the end I recommend doing this first, in a dry skillet over medium heat until they have just a few brown edges, and always keep a close eye on toasting nuts – they tend to burn the instant they are forgotten.

Combine garlic, onion, and chili pepper in a food processor until finely minced, adding the pine nuts for just a few more seconds until roughly chopped (or you can do this by hand). 

Add this mixture to your ground meat along with your salt, pepper, cinnamon, allspice, and fresh herbs, combine thoroughly by hand, and form into oblong meatballs about two inches long. Chill until ready to fry.

Add oil to a heated skillet over medium-high heat and fry kofta about one minute each, turning twice so you get three browned sides. The meat should be only slightly undercooked at this point. 

Set kofta aside until almost ready to serve, then pour tahini sauce over and bake at 375 for 3-5 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through and the sauce is warmed. While they are cooking, melt or warm your ghee or butter. 

Remove kofta from the oven, drizzle them with melted butter, and sprinkle them with pine nuts, paprika, and more fresh herbs if desired. Serve with cucumbers, tomatoes, and rice or fresh pita.


Emily's Obsessions: Asiana Noodle Shop's Tom Kha

Asiana Noodle Shop's Tom Kha with Shrimp Siu Mai

There are a lot of ways to order Cargo Soup at Asiana Noodle Shop – that’s the point. You get to choose your broth, the style of your noodles, your favorite protein. I admit that I have only ever tried it one way because I immediately decided that I had found the best soup in town. (Yes, I’ve tried the Chop Your Head Off soup at A Single Pebble and I know it’s sublime, so you don’t need to write me any letters).

The best way I can describe the Tom Kha is – perfect. The warmth from the galangal, a ginger relative (Tom Kha literally means galangal soup) adds more depth than spice, and mixed with the round sweetness of the fatty coconut milk it lulls you into contentment. The kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass add acidity while the chilis and cilantro add notes of a more pungent spice than the galangal, but that could be true of any Tom Kha. The difference is found in the impeccable balance in this recipe – if anyone has been living in the same town as this dish without trying it, please stop depriving yourself.

Now for the most important bit: you have an option to add siu-mai dumplings to your soup – by all means, do it. You may have already tried this dim-sum staple as an appetizer dipped in sweet-salty sauce and concluded that they are delicious but forgettable: try them again, this time soaked in the broth that I have just extolled. The subtly sweet shrimp filling, once it is saturated in that complicated warmth, is somehow even more perfect than the broth alone – very worthy of obsession: may it be my last bite of food on earth. 


Emily's Obsessions: Fried Chicken Sandwich at Dolce VT Food Truck

I have decided (after numerous close inspections) that this menu staple is more of a bánh mì with a soul food focus than a po’boy made with ginger in the carrot slaw: That is splitting hairs at a food truck specializing in the comforting, on-trend fusion of South Asian and Southern cuisines (with constant allusions to the French influences which suffuse both) but at this place that is obviously the point.

This sandwich is served on a beautiful crusty roll, like a bánh mì. The honey drizzle is a classic addition to fried chicken, and the addition of chipotle pepper is a nod to hot chicken which also cuts the bitter edge off the sweetness. The fried chicken itself, or rather the perfectly spiced fry mix, is always crunchy.

The fry mix was also great on the frog’s legs I sampled which came with lemon herb aioli, and the chicken skins (yes, just the skins) which came with smoked olive oil and basil aioli. Let’s not underestimate the role of aioli (also known as beautiful mayonnaise) in the overall success of both this sandwich and Dolce VT as an enterprise: The truffled shoestring fries also come with aioli – whichever one is on tap that day.

Find these delicacies at the Truck Stop at ArtsRiot on Friday nights, or out front on Pine street on seemingly random weekdays: You’ll just have to stalk Dolce VT on Facebook like the rest of us.


Emily's Obsessions

On the day that I found myself recommending the most amazing soup in town to the cashier at my current food truck obsession I probably should have considered blogging about my restaurant and street food obsessions – I already have a food business and online platform for it, after all. The thought didn’t occur to  me until a few weeks later, while I was trying to get my favorite dumplings into some perfect afternoon sunlight for a glamor shot.

Burlington is a city often associated with live music, but this appreciation for what is beautiful and artistic has in fact bolstered a community centered almost entirely on food. During January cold snaps you will still find people at the indoor farmer’s market kicking slush off their boots at the door to buy root vegetables, cheeses, chocolates, hot sauces and hot cider. During the summer Burlington’s food obsession comes out into the open.

The BCA’s July concerts on the green at Battery Park are always sprawling picnics by six in the evening on a weekday while just minutes down the road the extravaganza of food and tiny frolicking children known as Summervale at the Intervale is likewise always at capacity, people parking in lots a quarter mile uphill both ways. It doesn’t seem to matter when events like this overlap: if there is a way to create a festival out of a meal the people will come, and yes, there will be live music.

It is in this spirit of celebration that I am adding a new aspect to Emily’s Home Cooking’s blog, by which I mean that I will now be adding posts designated ‘Emily’s Obsessions,’ where I will wax poetic about my favorite things that other local chefs are making to eat, the favorites from food trucks, carts, and long-established restaurants alike that I just cannot do without.

Obsessions: These are the dishes that I rave about to anyone who will listen.