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Shakshuka

Shakshuka-4

Shakshuka has an unusual name that may not roll off the tongue easily at first but believe me once you make this you will be shakshuka-ing all the time. Shakshuka is a dish that is popular in North Africa and the Middle East. Basically, the dish consists of eggs poached in tomatoes, onions, red peppers, and various spices.

Shakshuka is incredibly versatile and can be served for dinner or brunch. Most of the ingredients are pantry staples and from start to finish you can make this meal in just over 30 minutes. Plus, when you are done your kitchen will smell like heaven. I kid you not.

Shakshuka-25

One unusual element of this dish is using a large can of whole, peeled tomatoes. I like to pour the whole can into a large bowl and crush the tomatoes by hand before adding them to the skillet.  This process adds not only the terrific flavor from the whole tomatoes but provides the sauce a beautiful rustic texture.

But, be warned, wear an apron or clothes that you don’t care about because it is a messy process. If you hate messes you could also use a pastry blender to break up the tomatoes. But, why not bring out your inner Lucille Ball and smash those babies up like an Italian grandma? Check out this video. This woman gets me.

Having bread to soak up the sauce is crucial. My preference is a nice crusty loaf or fresh warmed pitas. A crisp green salad would round out the meal perfectly.

Last year, a few Hello Fun Seekers readers and I all made shakshuka simultaneously and live-tweeted our progress on Twitter. It was really fun! Would you all be interested in doing something like that from time to time? Let me know in the comments below if you think that sounds like fun.

How to Make Shakshuka

Shakshuka

Pan-seared Salmon

Pan-seared Salmon in skillet

The last quarter of the year always means decadence, celebration, parties, events, and on and on. While I enjoy it immensely, sometimes you just need to take it all down a notch and do your body a favor. So, I like to have some easy-to-prepare, healthy recipes in my back pocket for times when all the abundance is too much.

Salmon fillets perfectly fit the bill for those times. One of my favorite techniques for cooking salmon is to pan-sear it in a cast iron pan. The technique is simple and results in a picture-perfect sear on the fish. There are just a few key steps to successfully searing salmon.

Pan-seared Salmon on a plate

First, you want to pat dry both sides of the salmon, moisture is the enemy of a good sear. Secondly, heat a neutral oil such as vegetable oil or avocado oil in a cast iron skillet until the oil shimmers. I used to feel intimidated by the idea of using a cast iron skillet. There’s the seasoning of the pan, the no soap cleaning, and oiling it after use. It seemed to be more bother than it was worth for me. But, my sweetie changed my mind about cast iron and showed me the ropes. Now, I love cooking in it.

Here is a short video from Bon Appetite’s Test Kitchen which shows how to care for cast iron.

 

The last step for a perfect pan-sear is to place the fish in the hot oil and use a flexible spatula to press the fish down for 10 seconds. The fish will start to curl when it hits the hot pan. You want to make sure the whole surface stays in contact with the pan. That is what ensures a nice sear.

Pan-seared Salmon close-up

To accompany pan-seared salmon, I choose whatever veggies are in season.  In the fall and winter, I like to steam broccoli or broccolini topped with a splash of lemon. In the spring, asparagus is a lovely accompaniment and during the summer I will use green beans or squash. I often will oven-roast potatoes to round out the meal.

Pan-seared salmon pin

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