Tag Archive for jewish food

Shakshuka: Fun to say, even better to eat.

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My Spring Fling Cleanse officially ends in about 90 minutes. Each season when I go through this process, I have an entirely different experience. Of course this is true for many reasons: I am a season older, the group I lead changes each season, the body wants different things at different times, and sometimes the mind is able to engage a commitment more than other times. But two things remain constant: I always want the nightshade family back when the cleanse ends and I never get over eggs. I will pretty much put an egg on ANYfuckingTHING. One of my all time favorite breakfasts is a bowl of an entire head of dino kale shredded and cooked down in ginger, lemon juice and coconut aminos with a fat scoop of Farmhouse Culture’s Smoked Jalapeno Sauerkraut and a skillet fried egg done in coconut oil on top with some kind of fancy salt. On a cleanse, I take some time to make space without the peppers in the kraut or the egg so usually the first thing I reintroduce are nightshades and then eggs. Everything else comes slowly. And then some things (sugar and mostly coffee) not at all. But the breakfast bowl, that’s a siren song for me. I love the colors and the faint sweetness of the coconut along the edge of the spicy and the sour. I like the give of the yolk all through the kale, done with still the tiniest bit of crunch left in the spine. And I love the way the day starts with such bold assertion there, breakfast greens and eggs in a bowl cupped in sleepy hands.

But this time, I took a bit of a detour with my return. I’ve been obsessed with Shakshuka. It’s a word that’s fun to say, but the meal, well, that’s where the good time really starts. The dish comes from east of me, some say Egypt, some say Tunisia. But wherever it came from originally, you’ll find it all over Israel, Yemen, Libya and it’s a staple in the breakfast world. I read a billion recipes for it. From the NYT to smitten kitchen and back through both of Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes in the wonderful vegetarian Plenty, and the drop-dead gorgeous new book, Jerusalem. (If you love cookbooks, don’t waffle on Jerusalem. Just shell out for it.) There were a thousand other blogs and books that had an entry for this Comfort Jewfood and even a lady with a blog called The Shiksa in the Kitchen, which is fabulous.

This is my first attempt and I culled things I liked from all the recipes and went to work with my own new hybrid. The tang, the smoke, and the creaminess of the egg yolk were all exactly perfect for a late lunch on a windy day here in the fog belt of San Francisco. I can imagine this dish with plenty of variations including the popular addition of feta, but also with endless pepper combinations, spice tweaks, and maybe even a more Italianish flavor variation with a mozzarella basil situation. But here’s how mine went. And for a first try, I have to say, it was KILLER. I’m already looking forward to lunch tomorrow, as I am still loving my cleanse smoothies for breakfast. Until then, I leave you with some visuals and a recipe. It’s super easy and the payoff is big time.

Seinberg’s First Shakshuka

Serves 6-8

1T extra virgin olive oil
1t ground cumin
2t paprika
1t smoked sea salt
4 garlic cloves, diced
1 onion, diced
1 shallot, diced
3 Anaheim chiles
1 jalapeno
1 red bell pepper
1 28oz can of diced tomatoes or four fresh tomatoes, diced.
4 eggs
Diced parsley for garnish

Preheat your oven to 375.

One thing you need for my version is a pan that can go from stovetop to oven. You can use whatever you like, but something relatively shallow and wide is best. I picked this cast iron skillet, which is a popular choice in the recipes I culled, plus it makes you feel like a cowboy. And personally, I like that feeling.

First heat the oil up in the skillet and add your onion, shallot, and garlic. After about 5 minutes, add in all your diced peppers and cook everything down for about 10 minutes. Then mix in your salt, cumin and paprika. Get everything all coated with color and cook for a few minutes. Pour in your can of tomatoes and mix it all together on a medium flame. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Make four little wells in the mixture and crack an egg into each. Let the mixture cook on the flame for another 2 minutes.

Now take the whole skillet and put it into your heated over for 15 minutes. The whites should be cooked through and the yolks will still be soft. You can serve it with parsley diced on top. Or cilantro if you like. You can also serve it with pita bread but I kind of feel like unless you make homemade pita that kills, fuck it. Just eat it with a spoon, friend.

Vegan Matzo Ball Soup

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I cook a lot. At home, I’d say about 90% of what I cook is vegan. But when it comes to old school Jewish Gr’ma family recipes, I usually don’t fuck around. I’ll get some chicken and render schmaltz and the whole Megillah. Or Haggadah, as it were. I put eggs in the matzo balls and the big fluffy things with dense centers float to the top of the soup like doughy halos. If it ain’t broke, not only does it not need fixing, but messing with 200 generations of Jews and their soups is no small undertaking. Still, like Haggadahs change, so too, do we all. As humans, it is our central JOB to change. Our priorities shift and move, our bodies continue to have changing needs, and our FAMILIES change as we grow as well.

Like many enthusiastically queer people, we have a long tradition of collecting chosen families. While I’ve been lucky and blessed to still be welcome and celebrated in my family of origin, this is not often the case. We sometimes leave home, leave our towns, and come together into new families we build out of a different kind of mortar. A sweetness that bind queers together, that binds all people who fight to live together. And in this way, we make new families, we make new traditions, and we make soup.

Last night I got invited to a seder of my best friend Schaefer and her lady. I’ve known Schaef since I was 23, which makes this year our 20th anniversary together. We’ve seen each other through a TON of transitions, often over BBQ. But some years ago, Schaef became vegan and brought me a whole new set of creative challenges. I kind of love when a set of dinner guests have extensively different food preferences and needs. It helps me off the beaten path to new ideas and riffs on things. It’s like jamming for a garage band, except I don’t have a band and well, my kitchen outfits are decidedly less metal than a good rock band. Whatever. I have some good aprons.

Last night I tried two* things. And this one was epic. Stepping off the flagpole for a vegan Matzo Ball Soup was kind of intense. But guess what: This shit is off the hook. And it will come as no surprise that I believe the reason for this is the hippie dust. Now before you even begin, I want to point out that you need several hours, if not overnight for the ball dough to chill in the fridge. I had mine in there for like 4 hours and that seemed fine. This recipe is a mash-up of many ideas and experiences but a driving force was this recipe.

Vegan Matzo Ball Soup

THE BALLS:

1c matzo meal
1/2c hippie dust (nutritional yeast)
1/4c extra virgin olive oil
1t ground black pepper
1 package firm sprouted tofu
2T vegetable broth
1t coconut aminos, Bragg’s, or tamari

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Then chop up your tofu into small hunks and put it in your blender with the oil, the tamari (Bragg’s or coconut aminos), and the vegetable broth. Blend until smooth. You can use a food processor for this, but since my blender is out, I thought I’d see if it had the power to pull this off and it does. Now take your blender of silky vegan fluff and fold it into your hippie mix. Everything will come together nicely. Form the dough into the balls like you see above. I like mine kind of small to midsized. I used to love to make them as big as my head like they do at Canter’s in LA, but as life happens, my preferences changed. Now put the goods up to rest in the fridge for many hours. At least 4.

THE SOUP

1 red onion
1T olive oil
4 stalks celery
1 parsnip
6c homemade vegetable stock
1 1/2T celery salt
fresh parsley

Heat your olive oil up in a big soup pot. Add your chopped onion, chopped parsnip, and chopped celery.  Cook on medium until the onion and celery are translucent. Add the stock and the salt slowly and taste to make sure you like it. Bring everything to a boil and then turn down and let simmer. Get your balls out of the fridge and place them into the broth. Cover the soup for a half hour. When your timer goes off and you look, your balls will have floated on up and you will feel victorious and incredibile. Now let your soup cook for about an hour on low. Add the fresh parsley about ten minutes before you wanna eat. BAM.

Vegan Matzo Ball Soup: Dayenu!

*The other experiment I did was a gluten-free, sugar-free carrot cake. It turned out weird because I threw in some chia seeds and the flavor was off and whatever. The thing about experimenting is sometimes it doesn’t work and that’s FINE.

So here is my Passover offering to you. First some soup, and then this: May we all be free from the things that enslave us this Passover. And may we do what we can to free ourselves, and those that still suffer.