Friday, December 19, 2014

SOUNDTRACKS

We hike up the hill towards the track, running shoes on, holding hands, pretending we're forest ninjas. 

Are pumpkins still alive after they're picked? Why have you been drinking so much tea? Who is this King Tut guy? This stick totally looks like a machine gun. I want a robot, don't you? Did I tell you I got a Kangaskhan card and it has 230 life? I don't think there's a God. I want a new dog and I will name him Biscuit. Oh my God, mom, look at that beautiful sky.

Swaths of orange and red blaze across the bay, a sunset so breathtaking that dozens of people sit in the bleachers, reveling, taking photos, leaning in towards one another. It would be so easy to join them.


Don't sit down. Don't sit down. Don't sit down.


Mom, are you talking to yourself again?


Maybe.


We shift. We smile. We feed on each other's hesitations.

Ready, mom?


Ready, Dash.


Set?


Set.


Go.


I don't go. Shit. I don't go.

He is halfway around the track.

I own a different body now. My breasts are three inches lower. My legs are three inches thicker.

He has almost completed a lap.


My abdominals are split open. My pelvic floor is a foreign country.


He swings by for lap number two, slows down, tries to grab me. 


Come on, mom.

He doesn't know that scraped out feeling. Always searching for the on button.


We're here to run.

He wakes up running. I wake up recalibrating.

Mom?


Bound by bound, breath by breath, I match his gait. My legs glide without effort. My arms pump. We move and move and move. Faster and faster and faster. He has me.

Dash. Oh my God. I'm running!

He gives me the I-love-you-even-though-you're-crazy look.

Dude, I didn't think I would make it more than ten steps. The last time I ran was on my wedding day. 

You mean you haven't run since way before I was born?

Nope, Dash. I haven't run for 13 years.

Up and down the attic stairs to fetch laundry, paper towels, dead rats. In circles. From the house to the car to the house to the car. Down the supermarket aisle to catch a tumbling bottle of wine, a jar of pickles, an avalanche of apples. Towards a choking child. Out of the house in anger. Into my husband's arms. Behind a child's teetering bicycle. Towards speeding cars, crashing waves, third story windows.


He stops to process. To catch his breath. To search for the moon. To be seven years old.

Mom, it's dark and I want to go home and I'm so hungry.

Dash, I want shakshuka more than anything.

I want mac and cheese more than anything. 


I chase my little running man down the hill, endorphins dancing around my head, superhero rocket jets still humming. 

I have let my stories get too big. 

What did you say, mom? Why are you smiling?

Dash, please eat shakshuka with me.
(recipe written up by Dash; layout inspired by Pokémon cards)

Shack shooka. Shakshuka. Shakshouka. Chakchouka. Many spellings from around my house. And from around the world. I understand it has Tunisian and Israeli origins. I have never followed a shakshuka recipe but I've been inspired by dozens of photos from all over the web. 

My Berkeley version involves a harissa-spiced tomato and onion sauce, dotted with feta, topped with baked eggs and chopped herbs. 

Scoop it up with grilled bread. Add white beans, grilled sausages, braised lamb, or cooked potatoes.

Add on. Take away. Make it your own.

Here's my shakshuka. Please tell me about yours. 

SHAKSHUKA
printable recipe
serves 4
The only thing you need to make ahead of time is the garlic confit. Or just skip it! 

You can make this a one-dish dinner by cooking the sauce in an ovenproof pan, adding the eggs, and throwing it into the oven. Or, make the sauce a a few days ahead of time and store it in the fridge. Or freeze it. You can make individual shakshukas. Or spoon the sauce into a large baking dish for 4 people. Or double the recipe and make it for 8.

Sometimes, I use my cast iron pan for this but some people swear you should never put acidic tomatoes into cast iron. I've never had a problem. Do this at your own risk. I think it might depend on the depth of buildup on the interior of your pan.

ingredients:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, finely diced (yielding 2 to 2.5 cups)
1 heaping teaspoon salt
8 cloves garlic confit, squeezed out of their skins
2 cloves garlic, peeled and grated
3 anchovy fillets, packed in oil
1 box or can of crushed or diced tomatoes, 26 to 28 ounces (avoid those with too many additional ingredients, salt and basil are fine)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon harissa
1 tablespoon honey
2 sprigs fresh thyme
sherry wine vinegar, to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon lemon zest (either stripped with a zester or microplaned)
6 ounces of your favorite feta (any kind is fine but I prefer one with a creamier texture)
4 eggs
1/4 cup garlic oil from garlic confit

directions:
Place medium-sized ovenproof pan on medium heat. Add olive oil and butter. Once butter is melted, add onions and salt.  Stir every few minutes until translucent. Turn the heat to a simmer  Cover. Cook for about an hour. Stir every 10 minutes or so. If it starts to stick, add a splash of water. It's okay if it browns a bit. This will just add flavor. It's done when the texture is creamy and the color is golden. Remove the lid and boil off most of the liquid (if there is any). Keep the heat on low.

With your mortar and pestle, make a paste out of the garlic confit, fresh garlic, and anchovies. Add to cooked onions. Cook for 30 seconds. Stirring constantly. Add diced tomatoes, tomato paste, harissa, honey, and thyme. Stir. Bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook for about an hour, stirring every 10 minutes or so. You want it to thicken and sweeten and intensify. Taste. Adjust. 1 tablespoon of harissa can be quite powerful, but add more if the sauce doesn't have enough kick. I usually add some more salt and a splash of sherry wine vinegar. Remove the thyme sprigs. At this point, you can cool the sauce and then refrigerate or freeze until needed.

When you're ready to eat shakshuka, preheat the oven to 450°F. Combine parsley, mint, and lemon zest. Set aside.


Either leave your sauce in your ovenproof pan or spoon the sauce into a baking dish that allows about 1/2-inch of room at the top. Crumble or cube the feta and press it down into the sauce. It's okay if some of the pieces are poking up through the sauce. Place the dish in the oven until the sauce is piping hot, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven. With a spoon, make 4 circular holes for the eggs in the tomato sauce. Crack an egg into a bowl and slide it into a hole. Repeat 3 more times. Sprinkle half of the parsley, mint, and lemon zest over the surface. Spoon over some garlic oil.

Bake until eggs are cooked to your liking. It's okay for the top of the sauce to start browning a bit. Sometimes I find that the yolk is set before the white is cooked. In that case, the best thing to do is cover the dish or pan with a lid or tin foil for about 1 minute. Remove from the oven before it looks done because it will keep cooking. You can always throw it back in for a minute or two. Garnish with remaining herb and lemon zest mixture. Serve immediately with grilled bread and extra garlic oil.

10 comments:

  1. There is no way your legs are three inches thicker. I love that you write how I feel. -Jennifer

    ReplyDelete
  2. I need some of this immediately. Dash is darling...

    ReplyDelete
  3. This post and the shakshuka; love it, love it, love it! Happy holidays, Phyllis!

    ReplyDelete
  4. You sucked me in like I was reading a really good book. Then I realized and had nearly forgotten it was a recipe on a food blog. Great recipe by the way but I think you missed your calling. You may already be an author but if not, go write a book!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Lovely recipe! Somewhere in the distant past I read or heard that cooking tomatoes in an iron pan increased the iron in your diet. Do it all the time, no problem.
    Happy Holidays to you and your family.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I don't think I comment on here often, but I really just love your writing style so much that I felt compelled to tell you. You expresses things in ways that make perfect sense but I would have never put them in those words before. What a lovely introduction to your recipe =)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thank you for coming back. everybody missed you

    ReplyDelete
  8. Beautiful. The story and the food. I just made something similar, or actually the same thing I guess.. my version was called 'eggs in purgatory' or 'eggs in hell' and I like it spicy. Grilled bread is a must. And I used a cast iron pan.. no issues.

    ReplyDelete
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