Shakshuka: Aka “Eggs in Purgatory”

 

ImageThis is my version of shakshuka, or “eggs in purgatory”. Its origin is unknown, some claiming it came from Tunisia, somewhere in the Middle East, or maybe Tripoli. It has also been adopted as a traditional Jewish dish somewhere along the way. Wherever it came from, it’s a delicious dish that allows for interpretation and creativity when making. It’s also beautiful to watch as it slowly cooks in the pan. There’s something about the way the eggs slowly poach away in the flavorful tomato sauce that makes me wanna grab a slice of grilled bread and sop up all of that yummy goodness before it’s even finished cooking… So, yeah, I recommend serving with grilled bread, or maybe a nice fat stack of gluten free crackers. My version is a fusion of a Greek/Mexican version, with feta cheese and chorizo. Obviously (especially if you are making a traditional Jewish version) you could sub out the chorizo, but I really like the way the chorizo adds a hearty element and flavor to the tomato sauce.  The egg-tomato combo is super filling as well, which is another added bonus. So drop the remote, slap on an apron, and Shak-shuk-your money maker over to the kitchen and make this dish pronto!

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La Duni Review (Dallas, TX | McKinney Ave location)

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Yesterday my fiancé Andy and I cruised over to La Duni for lunch just to try something different. We were starting to get tired of the same lunch spots we have been frequenting near McKinney, and when we spotted La Duni from a distance, we were like “Si, por favor!”

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Blue Cheese Picnic Salad with Homemade Croutons

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Imagine this: It’s a warm sunny day in April…in Texas, where it’s starting to get warm but isn’t blisteringly scorching yet….The breeze is softly billowing around your hair, playing up the smells of fresh cut grass and moist, rich soil beneath your blanketed feet. The chilled rosé (or Pabst Blue Ribbon, depending on how you roll) is flowing, sweet corn on the cob and a prime selection of succulent meats sizzling on the grill. The wafting smoke from the grill makes you sleepy and happy. What could top this perfect spread, you may be wondering? Imagine a cooler packed with a bowl of crispy green iceberg leaves topped with ripe red tomatoes from the vine, crispy, thick cut bites of bacon, homemade croutons, and a creamy, peppery buttermilk dressing looking lovely in a handy dandy re-cycled jam jar. My blue cheese picnic salad is the perfect side dish to pack up and take with you on a picnic, or you can serve it up at the dinner table in a big salad bowl with your favorite main dish. It would pair really well with a roast chicken or sitting next to a tomato basil pasta too.  Wherever or however you decide to eat it, the vibrant colors and cold crisp textures will be sure to transport you to a warm, breezy spring day at the park…

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Penzey’s Spices (Houston, TX location)

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Whenever I walk into this little shop in the Heights neighborhood of Houston, TX, it’s like wandering into a (really cool, hip) witch’s pantry filled with a magical smorgasbord of herbs and spices.  Sometimes I like to pretend I AM that cool witch scanning my herb collection for the right ingredient for a potion that I’m working on in my cauldron. I guess, for me, cooking is a little like creating magic spells except that the spell is on people’s taste buds and the cauldron is a heavy bottomed saucepan. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little make believe in the kitchen…But I digress… This little spice shop is filled with the most extensive (over 250 different spices) array of spices and custom blend spice mixes that you can find anywhere in Houston. (There ARE locations all over the US, just FYI, and a location on Preston Rd in Dallas for all my Dallas readers) And it’s all lined up in alphabetical order for easy access. If you’re looking for that exotic spice that you KNOW you wont find at the grocery store, or just more extensive types of certain spices, like deep red Turkish Aleppo red pepper or their smoky cedar smoked sea salt, this is the perfect place to stock up. Their mouth-watering special spice blend mixes, especially their Seasoned Salt, Southwest seasoning, Greek seasoning, and, for the homemade croutons, the Crouton Seasoning are A+MAZING. The best part is the actual spices are just such high quality and ridiculously fresh, and they are generally the same if not less expensive than most spices you find at the grocery store at about $5 per four ounce bottle. Ever since I discovered this little spice oasis, I have slowly weaned myself from all other spice brands, and most of my own pantry is beginning to look like that witch’s lair that I happened upon a year ago. Go give YOUR local Penzey’s a visit, and create your own magic in the kitchen! You can also order online at:

 

http://www.penzeys.com/

 

 

“Nobody Calls Me” Sweet and Sour Chicken

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I sort of have a bit of an obsession with all foods that are the perfect balance of contrasting flavors and themes: sweet and sour, sweet and salty, spicy and sweet, acidic and savory, nostalgia and futuristic, perhaps?…and the list goes on… This recipe is one of those mad scientist, trial and error types that I have refined over the years, measuring out the ratios, subbing out different ingredients, until I came up with this wonderful version of Sweet and Sour Chicken. One day, I was standing on the toilet, hanging a clock, when I fell and hit my head on the sink. That’s when it hit me. The key ingredient that would bring all past and future recipes of sweet and sour chicken together as one: fresh orange juice! I love the way the ginger punctuates the sweetness of the honey and the sour of the vinegar, and how the orange juice sort of ties those two flavors together. Of course, this sauce can be used on it’s own as a vegetarian dish (you could add more veggies like green bell peppers and water chestnuts) or you could swap out shrimp, beef or pork for the chicken if you wanted to as well.  

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Habanero Tarragon Halibut with Broccolini

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I’m always looking for new and creative ways to cook a fish. I came up with this recipe (like many of my favorite recipes) wandering down the aisles of Central Market yesterday afternoon. Early afternoon is always my favorite time to go to the grocery store, before it becomes a bumper car lot of shopping carts. As I moseyed past the fresh herbs, my eyes settled on an often over-looked skinny-leafed yet surprisingly savory fella: Tarragon! One smell of his spindly, bright green leaves, and I was inspired. Tarragon has a slightly licorice scent, much like anise, so I figured something spicy and savory would work really well coupled with it. I plucked a couple of round habaneros, fondled my way to the perfect blood orange, and scoped out the juiciest looking piece of Sea bass…and this recipe was born. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did last night.

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Coppa (Houston, TX) Lip Smacking-ly Good Italian Fare

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Coppa, in translation, means both the spicy Italian pork sausage that tops some of their signature pizzas and pastas, and also goblet, which is fitting in that every time I have been there, I wish they’d give me a giant goblet to fill my wine in, rather than the typical dinky wine glass… because the wine is pretty, pretty good.  If you are looking for that authentic, ingredients-showcasing type of Italian food, the type of fresh fare that you may unearth in a little Italian restaurant tucked away behind a bougainvillea tree on a cobble stone street in Naples, but slightly fusion-ified by a brilliant American executive chef named Brandi Key, who, is probably NOT? Italian, then Coppa should be your number one stop. Continue reading

The Art of Begging

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I’d like to introduce you to the family:

Nala, aka Nali Nose, is the Part Shar-Pei master begger with her paw resting on Andy’s lap. Sammy, aka Samuel L Jackson Russel Terrorist, is the little three-legged brown and white  handsome fella in the pic. Andy my fiancé, also known as Snuggle Bear (just kidding on that one) is the human looking like he’s trying to decide whether or not to discipline them or give in and give them some scraps.

This is our nightly ritual… We sit down at the dinner table, Nala goes into beg-face mode, which is only accentuated by her part Shar-Pei-ness. And Sammy doesn’t have to do much since he has the three-legged thing going for him. They always manage to sneak away from the table with a few treat-treats…Distracting as they may be, our pups always make our days around the house and the dinner table enjoyable and warm 🙂

Chocolate Tart w/ Pretzel Crust: For the Not-so-Healthy days

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Here’s a recipe that’ll get you through the work week! For the days when you’d rather eat a slice of pie (or tart, if you wanna get technical about it), sip on a steaming mug of java, curl up on the couch and leaf through the latest copy of Food and Wine than go to the office. I always try and eat healthy when I can, but I don’t forget to enjoy the decadent part of life and indulge in my favorite comfort classics once in a while, either. And for that, this pie should do the trick… It’s the perfect balance of salty, sweet, chocolate-y goodness. Just don’t eat the whole thing (I know that CAN be tempting) and you’ll be golden.

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