Hearty Fall Tabbouleh

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Hi, hi, HI!

We are back from Italy and Greece and have begun the slooow recovery process of acclimating back into life as SF residents, rather than residents of Pyrgos, the charming Greek village we’ve been living in for the past week. Um, I mean visiting. We certainly didn’t pretend that we were Greeks who lived in a luxe wine villa with a hot tub, but who also had no noticeable way of making income other than going to the beach every day, nosiree nope not us.

Travel is so restorative, and being in Greece was especially amazing. It was my first time there and Santorini is for inspiration and dreams, I tell you. It was the most magic place I’d ever been, and among the most magical of things: FOOOOOOD.

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As everyone knows, we at this house love to cook and eat. And yet, one of the perks of vacation is that you can pay someone else to do half of that equation for you for a few weeks and not feel even a little bit badly about it.

One of my staples last week was Greek salad, either as plain Greek salad OR tabbouleh! Tabbouleh = Greek salad + bulgar + a boat load of parsley – feta cheese. That there is called “salad math.”

Just because we’re back does not mean I plan on quitting my regime of Greek salad any time soon. I just had to San Francisicify it a bit, give it a little more protein and warmth for the chillier weather we’re having here. This may make the Lebanese shudder at the sacrilege of it all (sorry, Joya!) but it’s so delicious, let’s just hope they’ll make it and forgive us.

This tabbouleh calls for faro instead of bulgar, for extra heartiness, and cooked lentils for protein and to complement the nuttier flavor of the faro. The result is a hefty little salad that will fill you up without weighing you down, while also whisking you back to the best of Greece.

That last part might just be me…

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HEARTY FALL TABBOULEH

Ingredients:

. 1/2 cup cooked faro

. 1 heaping cup of chopping tomatoes (your preference as to what kind)

. 3 persian cucumbers

. 1 cup chopping parsley

. 2 lemons

. 1/2 small red onion

. 3/4 cup pre-cooked lentils

. EVOO, salt and pepper

Instructions:

  1. Cook the faro according to instructions.
  2. Chop the tomatoes, parsley, onion, cucumbers. Put it all into a big bowl, add the lentils, and mix mix.
  3. Once the faro is cooked, add it into the big bowl and top with the juice of two lemons and a very generous glug or two of EVOO, salt and pepper.

*Please note – you can play with all these measurements! This is how I happen to like my tabbouleh, but if you want more lemon or fewer tomatoes, or whatever – go for it!

Shakshuka

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Shakshuka – Tunisian eggs baked in tomatoes – seems to be a divisive dish. Either you love it or hate it. It’s like the Hillary Clinton of recipes and everyone’s got an opinion. I, for the record, LOVED this recipe. And also Hillary Clinton. But mostly, this recipe, because it was spicy, kinda weird, and the easiest thing in all the land to make.

Le Fiance…not so much. Though, much like his political beliefs, he’s a middle of the road man. Didn’t love it, but definitely didn’t hate it. Went searching for a third party candidate, which he found – in the form of ice-cream.

Normally, I too, would rather eat ice-cream than a North African dish. Not because I believe in the less-ness of North African food, mind you. I just don’t like it. Tunisian, Ethiopian, Eritrean and other North African cuisines are often known for the addition of egg where, to my American palate, egg does not belong. I am also weird about eggs. There! I said it.

What I’ve realized, however, is that a lot of people (Americans) think of AFRICA! as this magical place that still looks like The Jungle Cruise in Disney Land, and that everyone must be eating the same thing, the whole continent over, and that thing must taste weird and they probably won’t like it. If you have ever tried Ethiopian food and didn’t like it, you would probably think that, too, and then cease eating food from any part of Africa. I knew someone like that for a long time. Her name rhymed with Schmilary.

But then I went to Africa and had to eat. For quite awhile. And in East Africa, I had some of the most wonderful food experiences of my life. In Tanzania, it was all mchele na maharage (rice and beans) all the time. Unless you decided to treat yourself by ordering chipsi mayai (fried eggs over french fries) and that, my friends, was always a very happy day. Simple foods that sustain. Plus, french fries. How can you not?

To contrast: France. Center of the gastro republique. I was recently in Saint-Louis and ordered a martini rouge, thinking it would be some delicious berry-flavored martini. What I received was a glass of vermouth that tasted astonishingly of mushrooms. It was awful, and an awful food experience was something I thought impossible in tres chic France. The other awful thing? My grasp of the French language. Note to self: stick with wine.

All of this is to say, both travel and cooking are so interesting because of the beautiful cultural collisions that happen most often around a table. We can learn so much about another country, its history and its people, simply by eating its food. And then you can decide if you like it or not. Because – NEWS FLASH – it’s okay not to like stuff.

In the same way that my Czech friend thinks our American propensity for smoothies is disgusting (“You smooth everything! Spinach is smoothie! How ick!” – direct quote from Czech friend), I think drinking a full glass of mushroom vermouth is tres ick, or mixing eggs into things where eggs should not be mixed is ick.

Until, that is, I made shakshuka. Picture this: fried eggs with delicious runny yolks. Fiery tomato sauce with a hint of smoke and a hefty kapow! of spice. Cheese. Oh! And more cheese. And fresh basil on top, but let’s be honest – the basil is the pretty-maker, the greenery that adds contrast in food photos. The basil is wholly unnecessary, as far as I’m concerned, because hi. CHEESE. Though it maketh my stomach hurt, it amazeth me, cheese.

We ate it for dinner, but in my heart of hearts, I believe this to be a breakfast dish because that’s where eggs belong. Also, I’d LOVE to pair this with a large cup of coffee.

If you like eggs, tomato, spice and feeling adventurous, you will like this dish. Or maybe you won’t. But as my mom always said, “It doesn’t matter if you like it. It matters that you try it.”

And if all else fails…there’s always ice-cream.

 SHAKSHUKA

 Ingredients:

. 2 tablespoons olive oil

. 1/2 medium onion diced finely (I do mine in the food processor)

. 4 cloves of garlic

. 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (normal okay too!)

. 1 teaspoon cumin

. 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

. 1/4 cup white wine

. One 15 ounce can of crushed tomatoes (spiced or not)

. One yellow bell pepper (diced)

. 6 eggs

. 1/4 cup of half and half

. Fresh basil

. S&P to taste, plus goat cheese for the top

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 425. Then, heat EVOO in a large skillet and add onions. Cook them until they’re lovely and translucent. If you have a large cast iron skillet, you can do everything in it! Lucky you! If you are not so lucky as to be in possession of a large cast iron skillet YET (come on wedding registry!) then you will have to do some transferring.

2. Press in four garlic cloves, stir, then add paprika, cumin, pepper flakes and a pinch of salt. Cook on medium for another two-ish minutes.

3. Once things are mixed and fragrant and the bell pepper has softened up, add the wine and cook down until the liquid is reduced. This should take another two minutes or so.

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4. Add tomatoes and increase the heat until your dish begins to boil. Not a rolling boil exactly (one of cooking’s most disgusting phrases) but a gentle boil, just up-tempo of a simmer, if you will. Do this simmering for about eight minutes, so things can absorb.

5. If you don’t have a cast iron, transfer the whole mixture into a glass baking dish (or small dutch oven) If you have a cast iron skillet, please forget we ever had this talk and proceed directly to number 6.

6. Turn off the heat and crack your six eggs directly on top of the sauce. It looks weird and a little gross, but you can do it. Then, crumble a little goat cheese over the top of the eggs (again, strange, I know) and then pour the half and half on top of THAT. You can use as much goat cheese as you like. We, the lactose-intolerant, treat goat cheese with a light hand, but you do you. Trust me, whatever you do, just put that sucker in the oven because it starts to look really gross. See?

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7. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the eggs set. If you don’t like your eggs too “eggy” (meaning runny, I guess?) then let them go for a bit longer. If you like ’em running like they’re in a half marathon, take them out at 15 on the dot.

8. Chiffonade some basil and top with parm or more goat cheese. We ate ours with hearty slices of this bread, as you probably could have imagined.

 

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SO WEIRD AND DELISH.

 

Berkeley Bowl Panzanella

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Last weekend we found ourselves in one of our top five places in the Bay Area. Golden Gate Bridge? Nah. Crissy Field? Nope. The Palace of Fine Arts? Nyet! Berkeley Bowl. Ye Hallowed grocery story, built in a former bowling alley, Berkeley Bowl is that famous joint right between the gourmet ghetto and campus, full of the most delicious produce. If it made any sort of sense at all – and if I didn’t have to fight through the equally famous Bay Area traffic – I would exclusively shop here.

Half the fun of Berkeley Bowl is knowing that you’re buying organic and local, because that’s a huge part of their produce section. The other half of the fun is that they have everything, so if you are suddenly struck by pea shoots and purple carrots, and then you want to build an Asian dish around those two things, they also have spring roll wrappers, soba noodles, seaweed, and whatever else your little heart might desire. Tears are shed at Berkeley Bowl, it’s just that amazing. If you would like to skip to the recipe, instead of listen me wax ecstatic about the Bizerkely Bowl, skip ahead. I’ll still be here, weeping into my tomatoes.

Tomatoes: a still life.

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Or, if you’re like us, you like any and all produce and you buy a little of everything. That’s exactly how our Berkeley Bowl Panzanella came to be: a pound of gorgeous heirloom tomatoes, a half pound of tricolor sweet peppers, a beautiful purple onion, some fresh basil, big heads of pinky organic garlic, and some obligatory citrus, because we’re right in that halfway place between winter and spring. Citrus, with its good friend kale, is coming out of our ears.

This panzanella also came to be as the love child of Smitten Kitchen, ye hallowed blogger who I love so much, and the summer panzanella from Outerlands, ye formerly hallowed and hard to get in to restaurant. While Deb’s panzanella is full-on summer, and Outerlands’ panzanella was always a bit fussy (squash blossoms, rosemary infusions) this one is more a humble dressed salad, winter citrus-infused, with the proud addition of warm homemade bread straight from the oven. A halfway meal between winter and spring that is secretly whispering, “Come on, Summer!”

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BERKELEY BOWL PANZANELLA

Salad Ingredients:

. 6-8 small tricolor sweet peppers

. 1 lb.  heirloom tomatoes (about three large tomatoes)

. 1 ripe avocado

. 1/3 purple/red onion, diced

. 1 freshly baked loaf of badass bread with italian seasonings added on top before baking

Dressing Ingredients:

. 1/2 lemon

. 2-3 cloves of garlic

. 1/4 cup EVOO

. 1/2 tablespoon dijon mustard

. Pinches of S&P

Optional garnishes: a small handful of sweet California basil and some grated cheese. We used a mix of pecorino and romano.

Instructions:

1. 4-6 hours before you eat, prep the bread dough and set aside.

2. 45 minutes before you’d like to eat, put the dough in the oven on 450, anywhere from 20-35 minutes. My oven takes a full 35.

3. Chop up all the ingredients to your liking. I diced my onions and peppers, cut my avocado into small cubes, and did some strange hybrid chop/dice with the tomatoes. Heirloom tomatoes often have split skins and bulbous shapes, so just do the best you can to cut them into bite sized pieces.

2. Let the ingredients sit for a few minutes while you make the dressing. Whisk together the 1/4 cup of evoo, 2-3 (up to you) pressed garlic, 1/2 tablespoon of dijon, and then juice the half lemon right into it. Salt and pepper to your taste.

3. Remove your bread from the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes. Once it’s cooled, slice off about a third of the loaf and rip it into pieces for giant croutons. Some would prefer crustier bread or day-old bread for these, but, um, FRESH BREAD. The fresh warmth is so delicious I just don’t see how anyone can argue.

4. Toss the croutons very lightly into some of the dressing, then add them to the salad. You can chiffonade some basil over the top, or top with some simple grated cheese.

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Et voila! This made three servings for us: two very hearty helpings for dinner (ahem) and enough to have the rest as a tasty side for lunch the next morning.

Enjoy it!