I’ve been meaning to get into the Shakshuka groove ever since I had it for breakfast at Nopi in London, and on my trip to Israel, where this North African dish wowed me – and my taste buds – every morning. Although various versions abound, the most widely known Shakshuka involves eggs softly cooked in a hot skillet of spiced tomato sauce. I’ve had plenty of spicy foods in my life, but the complex seasoning in the sauces that I’ve tasted in the ones I had lingered with me for months afterward, and I had no choice but to make it at home. (Or move to London – or North Africa.)
Results tagged tomato from David Lebovitz
Because I worked as a baker for a good portion of my life, for some reason, people mistakenly get it into their heads that I worked early morning hours. But anyone that has spent any time with me in the morning knows I am one to be feared if forced to interact with others before noon. When I worked in the restaurant, my shifts actually began in mid-afternoon, and I would get home around 2am. Which to me, were my kinda hours.
However every once in a while, I would do my penance and be assigned to work the dreaded morning shift, which started at the challenging hour of 8am. Which meant I had to get up a lot earlier to make it to work on time. The regular kitchen staff got there at 6am, and by the time I arrived, they were all coffee’d up and in full-on work mode. And believe it or not, some of them were kind of cheery.
I’m not at my best in the morning. Actually, I’m not at my best until at least 2pm. (Although actually, some might argue it’s even a little later.) To me, breakfast is meant to be enjoyed in monk-like solitude. It’s a time where questions are prohibited and talking should be kept to an absolute minimum.
Travel, of course, is fraught with all sorts of ways designed to thwart my precious few moments of quietude in the morning. There’s waking up in hotel rooms and stumbling toward the breakfast room, where unfamiliar people await, sometimes wanting to actually engage with you. What’s up with that?
When I met Maya Marom in Tel Aviv, she handed me a box of spices and flavorings, which meant that when I returned home, I could recreate many of the wonderful dishes that I enjoyed there. The best things I had in my travels were the salads loaded with fresh vegetables, which are served at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and are especially welcome when the temperature climbs in the summertime.
Maya was born in Arizona, but moved to Israel when she was three months old. She is a self-taught cook and baker, and has a gorgeous blog, Bazekalim as well as self-publishing her own food magazine. When she invited me over for lunch, she prepared what’s known as Israeli salad in her country; a finely chopped mixture of raw vegetables doused in a lively dressing with a typically Israeli flourish of lots of fresh herbs, chopped and mixed in at the last minute. She also adds toasted seeds and nuts, which gives the salad even more crunch.
I love fresh, brightly flavored salads like these, and she was kind enough to share it in a guest post. It can be varied to use whatever fresh vegetables are available where you live. Thanks Maya! – David
Israel is a land of immigrants. While most of my friends were born here, their grandparents were born in places like Iraq, Russia, Yemen, Morocco, Poland, or even Romania – like mine. So it’s not uncommon for dinner tables to include a mix of Lebanese, Italian, and Bulgarian cuisine, all at once. Everyone will happily mix everything in their plate, and will make a point of explaining to you how authentic their grandmother’s food is, and how it is better than yours.
Someone around here jumped the gun here on early harvested tomatoes and I came home the other day and found a bowl of les tomates Campari in a little paper sack, in the kitchen.
There’s a pretty interesting Indian community in Paris and I’ve taken to walking around areas in Paris like La Chapelle and rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, poking my nose into noisy restaurants and trying to figure out what those colorful and oddly shaped fruits and vegetables at the produces stalls are. There’s all sorts of stuff in those shops and I’m particularly taken with something that’s green and leafy – about one meter (about 3 feet) long – that I can’t figure out what anyone would do with it, let along try to navigate getting it home through the sometimes difficult to navigate sidewalks of Paris. But I’m too timid to ask.
But I was not too timid to accept an invitation into the kitchen of Beena Paradin, who heard my plight as I’ve been trying to recreate Indian dishes at home, with ups and downs. On the downs, it feels like there’s something I seem to be missing; the liberal spicing, perhaps. Or the “feeling” one must absorb when trying dishes from another culture, which usually involves letting go of our notions of how food should be seasoned and spiced, and adapting to a completely foreign way of cooking.
Well, the anniversary fête for Chez Panisse finally came to an end and I was more than glad that I came for the weekend of events. From the moment I had my first sip of Bandol rosé on Friday afternoon to the big final blow-out event for the hundreds of people who’d worked in the restaurant and café on Sunday, hoo-boy, the weekend marked a milestone in my life. And although Alice Waters swore there wouldn’t be another anniversary celebration like this, I’ve learned never to count out this fiercely determined woman.
One of the main things I learned at the restaurant, and from Alice, was that less is more. I’m as guilty as the next person of saying this, but when I hear people say they didn’t like a restaurant because they left and were still hungry, I’m glad that I no longer feel the need to qualify a restaurant based on how distended by stomach feels. Yes, we eat the feed ourselves, but I’m not so sure the hype about extreme eating and so forth have had all that many positive effects on society and our health. During breakfast with a friend at a local café, I was amazed at the amount of food on the plate that was presented to me. (Although I did somehow manage to eat it all, as well as the heaping plate of carnitas I had the day before. So I should keep my mouth shut, in more ways than one.)
The other day, I was looking at the overload of tomatoes that I bought as the season was winding down as the end of summer nears. But I realized that I was being gradually shoved out of my small kitchen by them, so I oven-roasted the louts with garlic and herbs to reclaim a few precious inches back of kitchen counter space. Yet when they were finished, I looked in my refrigerator, and there wasn’t any room in there either. So I was left holding a bowl of roasted tomatoes that needed to get used up.
Coincidentally, I also had a round of yeasted dough in my refrigerator from a batch of recipe testing that hadn’t found its meaning as something else yet—as experimental leftovers are want to do. So I took it out, which made room for the tomatoes – but then I realized that was defeating the purpose, so I decide to use both of them. (Am still stunned to see some vacant space in my refrigerator. But I may keep it empty as a constant memento and testament to my frugality.)