Can I just tell you have relieved I am not to have some Martha menu hanging over my head this weekend? I am very relieved.
I haven’t found a cookbook to work my way through yet; I pick them up and feel too constrained, so for this week I made one of the recipes I have bookmarked in my Favorites folder.
This is a Saveur recipe they call ‘Eggs Poached in Tomato Sauce” but I have it on good authority (according to the interwebz) that it’s a dish called Shakshuka, and is frequently eaten for breakfast in Israel. It was brought over by Jews from Libya. Whatever you call it, it sounded good and easy.
To accompany it I decided to try making a Serbian flatbread called lepinja that we had last week at the new Balkan restaurant in town, named, cleverly, Balkan Restaurant. This bread was so far beyond an ordinary pita–it was light and fluffy and spongy in all the right places. I LOVED it. According to numerous forum postings there is no way to make good lepinja outside of Eastern Europe because the flour isn’t the same. I would not be deterred, however. I found a recipe on allrecipes.com, which doesn’t exactly have the best pedigree, but three people gave it 5 stars so I thought I’d give it a go.
Well, of course, I immediately screwed it up, despite the simple directions: heat 2 T milk, sprinkle on yeast, mix with a cup of water and some sugar, then combine with flour and a bit of salt. I thought the dough seemed wetter than it should be, and then I realized that I had mixed two cups of water into the yeast. So, I fixed up some more yeast, added more flour and planned what to do with lepinja for 24. The dough rises three times, but the last two are just 30 minutes so it wasn’t too onerous of a process.
(That same day I also accidentally used the men’s restroom at Borders! In my own defense, there were no urinals, just stalls…. I blame all this on the fact that I was at the gym by 7:30 am that morning. Delirious.)
The bread didn’t turn out as well as what we had at the restaurant, and there was no pocket inside, but it was still tasty bread. I certainly didn’t mind eating it!
The shakshuka involves browning onion and jalapeno, then adding cumin, smoked paprika and garlic, followed by some whole tomatoes that you crush in your bare hands like a beast. The sauce cooks until slightly thickened, then the eggs are cracked on top to poach, covered. After the five-minute recipe-alloted time the whites were still clear, so I turned the heat up. That resulted in overcooked yolks, but it was fine. The dish is topped with chopped parsley and feta cheese before serving.
I liked this dish well enough, and would be thrilled if this were a regular breakfast item in our culture. It’s much better than soggy French toast, for example. That said, I think the sauce could use more flavor. The jalapeno didn’t add much heat, so next time I would add more or try a different pepper. I will admit it isn’t much to look at.