How green was my shakshuka

I was looking for another savory breakfast food when I was reminded that for years I’ve thought about making the Middle Eastern egg and sauce dish called shakshuka.

There were no hard-to-find ingredients; it just never quite made the cut when I was looking for something new to try. Until this week.

Green shakshuka ingredients.

My now-beloved Cook It In Your Dutch Oven cookbook even had a recipe all ready for me. Sure, it’s a different take than the traditional — it has a green sauce rather than a red tomato-based one. But that sounded even better. I can always use more greens in my diet.

The recipe turned out fine, if not my favorite. It calls for adding herbs in at the end, though I think adding them to the base sauce and then again at the end would be better — so that more of their flavor seeps into the sauce but also has the fresh zip that their late addition adds. (I should add that my sweetie quite liked the dish so maybe I just don’t appreciate greens as much as I should.)

Other than that, be prepared to buy a lot of Swiss chard, and preferably the kind without red stems if you want it to look vibrant green rather than my brownish-green.

Look at all those beautiful herbs. Noms.

Here’s what I did, roughly following the recipe (though changing some proportions):

Ingredients 

  • 3 bunches Swiss chard, stems removed and reserved and leaves chopped
  • 12 oz. baby spinach
  • ¼ c. olive oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 t. ground coriander
  • ½ c. vegetable broth
  • 1 c. frozen peas
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 8 eggs
  • 4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 T. chopped dill (I recommend more for sauce)
  • 2 T. fresh mint (I recommend a little more for sauce)
  • 1 t. dried Aleppo pepper, optional (I had on hand but it’s a mild crushed pepper so regular crushed pepper isn’t a good substitute unless you want to add a little spice)

Directions

Chop chard stems to yield 1 cup. Discard the rest or save for another use.

Heat Dutch oven on medium heat. Add 2 T. olive oil. Add the chard stems, onion, and a pinch of salt. Cook until softened and lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and coriander, and cook for about another minute.

Add the chard leaves and spinach (I had to do it in batches so they would wilt down), and cook until wilted but still green, about 3 to 5 minutes. Here I’d recommend adding some herbs for more flavor, to taste. Remove the mixture from heat and add 1 to 1 ½ c. of the mixture to a blender and blend until smooth, about a minute. Stir the blended mix back into the Dutch oven.

Add lemon juice and peas, and stir.

Place back on heat, medium to medium-low. Make 4 indentations in the mix and crack 2 eggs into each indentation. Sprinkle with Aleppo pepper, if using, and more salt as desired. Cover the pot and cook until egg whites are just set, 5 to 10 minutes (You have to keep a close eye on it). Remove from heat and let sit, covered, until the whites are fully set, another 2 to 4 minutes.

Add the herbs, feta, and drizzle with more olive oil.

Serve with crusty bread and enjoy!

Breaking babka

During my year of bread, babka — or the similar povitica — was always on my list but I was too afraid to spend the time needed to make this beautiful treat.

Fate tempted me back when I found a wonderful looking babka recipe in my Cook It In Your Dutch Oven cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen.

I won’t lie, it’s a multi-day affair. That bothers me less now that I work your standard 9 to 5 with weekends free. But it does take some planning, say, when you’re scheduled to have 3 hours of your afternoon spent at the theater with Avengers: Endgame.

Forgot an ingredients photo but here’s my table with the 18 x 24 dough covered in filling, pre-roll.

Even with that, I found it to be worth the effort. So much so that I made it two weeks in a row. (I may have also seen Endgame two weeks in a row.)

Mostly I just wanted to try to redo the recipe with my favorite filling. I know, I know it’s sacrilege to think there’s something better than chocolate, but I frickin’ love cream cheese filling.

The second time worked slightly better in some ways, but I think that’s mostly just the nature of breads. Sometimes the mix needs some tweaking.

My first attempt had the stand mixer get the dough perfectly concocted in well short of the 10 to 12 minutes recommended, so I stopped it. But that meant that I had to let my dough rise for longer because the yeast didn’t activate as well. The second time it was sticky and slow like it was supposed to so everything rose well.

The second time my filling was softer because I probably could have used a little more cream cheese. (I replaced 12 oz. of chocolate chunks/cocoa with 8 oz. cream cheese, and I think 12 oz. may have made a better, thicker consistency, but it still worked.) The first time it was smooth and just stiff enough to spread and keep a nice firm shape.

Either way, as long as you’ve done a handful of breads before, I think anyone can make this one. It wasn’t even *that* hard to make it look pretty.

The creamy cream cheese one.
The gooey chocolate one.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

For Dough

  • 4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 T. yeast (The recipe calls for instant or rapid-rise, which I didn’t use. If you knead well in the stand mixer, it didn’t seem to matter. I had a good rise the second time.)
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 c. whole milk (I used 2% the second time and didn’t notice any major differences.)
  • ½ c. granulated sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 t. vanilla extract
  • 2 sticks (16 T.) butter, softened

For Chocolate Filling

  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 stick (8 T.) butter
  • 6 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ c. confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 large egg whites

For Cream Cheese Filling

  • 8 to 12 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick (8 T.) butter
  • ½ c. confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 large egg whites

For Finishing

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten, with 1 T. water and pinch of salt

Directions

For Dough

Whisk together flour, yeast, and salt, in the bowl of a stand mixer. In a separate bowl (that holds at least 4 c.), mix together the milk, sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla, until the sugar has dissolved. Use a dough hook attachment on low, and begin to slowly add the milk mixture to the flour mixture, and continue to mix until the dough starts to form.

Increase the speed on the stand mixer to medium-low, and add the 2 sticks of butter 1 T. at a time, until the butter is fully incorporated, about 3 to 4 minutes. Continue to knead in the stand mixer for another 10 to 12 minutes until the dough is smooth, elastic, and clears the sides of the bowls. (Like I said, this happened within a couple minutes the first time, and I should have kneaded by hand for longer instead of stopping when a clump formed, but the second time it was definitely too sticky to handle until about 10 to 12 minutes, and I even added a titch more flour.)

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured counter and knead by hand for about 30 seconds and form a smooth, round ball. Place the dough, seam side down, in a large greased bowl. Cover and let rise by about half for 1 ½ to 2 hours. Once risen, refrigerate dough until it is firm, at least 1 hour to up to 24 hours (an ideal time to go watch a long action-packed superhero movie). Let rest at room temperature for 15 minutes if you refrigerate for much longer than an hour.

For (either) Filling

Microwave the chocolate chunks, cocoa, and butter OR the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl for about 3 minutes at 50 percent power, stirring often, until the mixture has melted and a smooth, soft filling forms. Add the confectioners’ sugar, and then let cool for about 30 minutes. Then, whisk in the egg whites, until fully combined and the mixture looks glossy (less noticeable with the cream cheese filling, so mix well).

To Combine

Press the dough down to deflate, and then transfer to a lightly floured counter (I had to use my whole damn kitchen table so make sure you have space). Roll dough into an 18 inch by 24 inch rectangle, keeping the shorter side parallel to the counter. Once rolled out, spread the filling on the dough, leaving about a ½ inch border around the edge.

Roll the dough away from you into a firm, taut cylinder. Pinch to close the seam. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate (on a large baking sheet if possible but mine weren’t big enough so I just cleared a space on a shelf) for about 30 minutes.

To Finish

Meanwhile, make a foil sling for the Dutch oven by folding in half 2 long sheets of aluminum foil, so you have 2 long, roughly 7 inch sheets. Place sheets perpendicular to each other, like a lowercase t, and carefully smooth down into the Dutch oven bowl. Spray with a little bit of oil.

When dough is ready, transfer the log back to the lightly floured counter with the short end facing you. Carefully cut the dough in half lengthwise so that you will have the swirls of filling facing up to you. Pinch together the two dough halves and then braid end over end, as tightly as possible. Pinch the second end together, and then wrap into a spiral with the ends tucked underneath.

Put the dough in the prepared Dutch oven, and let rise for another 1 ½ to 2 hours.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees, and brush the egg mixture on top of the dough.

Cover pot, and bake for about 20 minutes. Uncover, rotate pot, and continue to bake for another 35 to 45 minutes, until the loaf is a deep golden brown.

Lift dough out of pot using the foil overhang, and let cool completely (about 3 hours) on a wire rack, and then finally, enjoy!

Making homemade bread even better

Like Oprah, I love bread.

I love it in all its forms, but one of my favorites is the one I made earlier this year, since it’s so simple and yet so tasty. I also love the store-bought jalapeno-cheddar bread, but I’d never thought to make it myself.

Then, I came across a recipe from 50 Campfires that pretty much combined the two. It basically took the recipe I used earlier this year, and then just added jalapenos and cheddar.

I forgot to snap a pic before I started, but picture the ingredients from my earlier bread recipe and then picture them mostly combined to look like this floury dough ball.

I decided to give it a shot.

My only concern as I was making it was the sheer amount of jalapenos. I like spicy but I have my limits, and this bread includes two in the dough (and rises for nearly 24 hours with them in it) and then one on top.

Mercifully, if you follow the instructions to remove the seeds from the two that go in the dough and just keep them for the one on top, it’s not overly spicy. There’s a little kick from the top slices but otherwise, it’s pretty mild. I’m sure the yeast and cheese help.

It’s more effort than store-bought but even better, and considering how quickly this stuff disappeared, I’ll be making it again (and again).

The cutest and tastiest little ball of bread ever.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 t. active dry yeast
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 c. grated sharp cheddar, divided (I didn’t really measure but this is a good reference amount)
  • 3 jalapeno peppers, divided
  • 1 ½ c. warm water

Directions

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and yeast. Add in all but 4 T. of the grated cheddar cheese. Seed and chop two of the jalapenos, and add into the flour mix. Stir to combine all.

Add the water, and stir until a shaggy, sticky dough forms (a dough scraper works really well for this).

Cover the bowl, preferably with plastic wrap (grease it if you expect it to rise to touch the wrap). Let the dough rise in a cool, dry place (not the refrigerator) for 12 to 24 hours.

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Place the Dutch oven in the oven, covered, for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, transfer the dough to a heavily floured surface and shape it into a rounded loaf, but don’t knead it.

When the Dutch oven is ready, carefully remove from oven and remove lid. Carefully place the dough inside, and cover again. Bake covered for 30 minutes.

Carefully remove from oven, and remove lid. Sprinkle the top of the loaf with the remaining cheddar, and the sliced jalapeno (with seeds, if desired) and set slices on top. Bake uncovered for another 10 to 15 minutes until the bread and cheese are golden brown.

Carefully remove loaf from the Dutch oven, place on a rack to cool (for at least an hour before slicing), and enjoy!

Sausage strata made simple

When I made this week’s recipe, I was mad at myself for not making it sooner and not making it more often throughout my life. Seriously, what have I been doing missing out on the best, easiest brunch dish ever?!

Strata is the ultimate impress-company-without-doing-much-work meal, and I didn’t think to make it regularly so that I could have breakfast, brunch, and/or lunch for almost a week. I’ve been a fool.

Strata ingredients.

I’ve learned my lesson now, though.

Recipes abound for how to make this but there’s no real universal dish or way to make it, so I did it my way, and therefore I loved it. But this is one of those recipes where you can substitute pretty much anything.

For my tastes, I wanted sausage, pepper, and onion. I also wanted the, well, sour taste of sourdough bread instead of the plainer french bread. But your mileage may vary and that’s fine.

Prefer bacon? Do it. Hate onions? Skip ‘em, or replace with another veggie.

Oh, and it can all be made in one pot.

It’s truly an amazing dish and so universal. I’ll definitely be making it again soon.

*nom nom noms*

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. breakfast sausage
  • 1 T. oil, depending on how fatty your sausage is
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped
  • 1 sourdough boule, roughly torn into pieces
  • 2 c. cheese, plus more for topping (I used Cabot’s Mac & Cheese that’s a mix of Parmesan, Swiss, and cheddar, but whatever works)
  • 12 eggs
  • 3 c. milk
  • 1 ½ t. dried oregano
  • 1 ½ t. dried (or fresh) basil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

The night before you plan to cook the strata, thoroughly cook the sausage (using oil if necessary) in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, adding onions and peppers part-way through so that they are softened.

Remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool completely.

Meanwhile, mix together the eggs, milk, herbs and spices, and cheese. Place the torn bread pieces in the Dutch oven with the sausage mix, and stir to combine. Pour the egg mixture over the sausage mixture. It’s OK if it’s a little soupy, as the bread will absorb it over time.

Cover and refrigerate the mixture overnight.

In the morning, heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the Dutch oven, still covered, in the oven and bake the mixture for 45 minutes to an hour until the the eggs are cooked through, adding another half cup or so of cheese to the top about 15 minutes before the dish is complete.

Allow to cool slightly, if possible, and enjoy!