Breakfast for Dinner: Shakshuka

Tunisian-style Ragout with Sausage, Kale, and Poached Egg

Egg, Sausage, Kale Ragout

Shakshuka is a traditional North African breakfast composed of simmered tomatoes, peppers, aromatics, and poached eggs. It’s meant to be spicy which is a nifty DIY method for keeping cool in the Saharan heat. (The more you sweat, the more you cool off). As for us, it’s a warming meal that screams comfort food, perfect for the dead of winter. The Tunisians call shakshuka breakfast, but I’ve added sausage, spinach, and chickpeas and prefer to call it dinner. It’s delicious as is, served with crusty bread for mopping up the egg yolk and the sauce. If desired, spoon prepared couscous (or rice for gluten-free) into shallow serving bowls. Make a well in the center of the couscous and ladle the ragout and egg into the center of the couscous.

Sausage Tomato Ragout with Poached Eggs and Chick Peas

Prepare this in a 10-inch deep skillet and serve family-style at the table. If you have individual skillets (pictured), then prepare the ragout in one large skillet or pot. Before adding the eggs, divide the ragout between individual skillets placed on the stovetop over medium heat, and add one egg to each skillet. Chard or kale leaves may be substituted for the spinach.

Active Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 pound hot Italian or chorizo sausages, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 medium onion, chopped, about 1 cup
1 large garlic clove
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
1 (14-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons harissa or hot sauce, to taste

1 bunch spinach, stems discarded, leaves coarsely chopped
4 to 6 large eggs
Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley for garnish

1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a deep oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausages and brown on all sides, about 4 minutes. Transfer the sausages with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with a paper towel. Discard the oil from the pan, but do not rinse out the skillet.
2. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and the onion to the skillet and saute over medium heat until the onion begins to soften, about 2 minutes, scraping up any brown bits. Add the garlic, paprika, and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Return the sausages to the pan and add the tomatoes, chickpeas, and salt. Stir to combine and taste for seasoning. If more heat is desired, add the harissa or hot sauce to taste.
3. Simmer the ragout, partially covered, over medium-low heat, to slightly thicken and allow the flavors to develop, about 20 minutes, stirring and breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon. Stir in the spinach and cook until slightly wilted, about 2 minutes.
4. Make an indentation or well in the ragout with a spoon. Crack one egg in a small bowl and gently slide the egg into the indentation. Repeat with the remaining eggs, taking care to not overlap the eggs. Cover the skillet and simmer over medium-low heat until the egg whites are set but the yolks remain runny, about 10 minutes.
5. Remove from the heat. Serve family style or spoon the ragout with one egg into individual serving bowls. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro or parsley and a grind of black pepper.

Easy Homemade Granola

Basic Granola TasteFood

Why spend money on boxed granola when you can easily make it in less than 30 minutes? Now that school is in session, try making this recipe to keep on hand for healthy breakfasts and snacks. This recipe follows a basic ratio of 2 cups oats to 1 cup coconut to 1 cup nuts to 1 cup dried fruit. To that I embellish, adding different grains and seeds such as flax, sunflower, or even wheat germ, depending on what I have in the cupboard. Use this recipe as a template and mix and match your favorite nuts, fruit, and seeds to your taste – and consider doubling the batch, because it’s guaranteed to be gobbled up.

Easy Homemade Granola

Be sure to add any of the fruit after the granola has cooked to prevent the fruit from burning. Makes about 5 cups.

2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup unsweetened grated coconut
1 cup coarsely chopped raw almonds
1/4 cup pepitas or sunflower seeds (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup raisins, or more to your taste

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Combine the oats, coconut, almonds, pepitas, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk the syrup, sugar, oil, vanilla, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Pour over the oats and stir to thoroughly coat.

Spread the mixture on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat. Bake until light golden, about 25 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from the oven and add the raisins, stirring to blend. Cool completely. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to one week.

Back to School Basics: Easy Granola

Basic Granola TasteFood

Everyone needs a good granola recipe up their sleeve. Homemade granola is a healthy pantry staple, great for quick breakfasts and wholesome snacks. It’s also very easy to make, requiring only 30 minutes. I follow a basic ratio of 2 cups oats to 1 cup coconut to 1 cup nuts to 1 cup dried fruit. To that I embellish, adding different grains and seeds such as flax, sunflower, or even wheat germ, depending on what I have on hand.  Use this recipe as a template and mix and match your favorite nuts, fruit, and seeds to your taste – and consider doubling the batch, because it’s guaranteed to be gobbled up.

Easy Granola:

Be sure to add any of the fruit after the granola has cooked to prevent the fruit from burning. Makes about 5 cups.

2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup unsweetened grated coconut
1 cup coarsely chopped raw almonds
1/4 cup pepitas or sunflower seeds (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup raisins, or more to your taste

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Combine the oats, coconut, almonds, pepitas, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk the syrup, sugar, oil, vanilla, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Pour over the oats and stir to thoroughly coat.

Spread the mixture on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat. Bake until light golden, about 25 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from the oven and add the raisins, stirring to blend. Cool completely. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to one week.

This recipe also appears in my Food and Drink column at Marin Magazine.

Else’s Saffron Bread

Saffron Bread tastefood Swedish Saffron Bread (Lussekatter)

I have been making saffron bread with my Danish husband since we first met and lived in Geneva, Switzerland.  It’s a charming and delicious tradition passed down from his mother, Else, which celebrates the festival of light during the dark winter solstice, Swedish-style, by forming billowy saffron scented breads into various shapes (lussekatter) and buns. In those early years, before our children were born and since my husband and I lived far from our own families, we made a point of inviting friends who had children, since this holiday isn’t complete without the help of little fingers assisting in shaping and nibbling the dough. While the bread rose, we would take a long walk in the vineyards beneath the Jura mountains overlooking Lake Geneva, before returning to form and bake the breads, which we would enjoy with  a glass of glogg or tea before the fire. Later, we had our own children to help, but we continued to invite our friends to join making Else’s saffron bread, even as we moved from country to country in Europe. No matter where we lived, this was a lovely holiday celebration enjoyed by everyone, no matter their nationality, impossible not to share with our extended family of friends.

This year, we are a half empty nest, with our oldest away at college. We continue the tradition, once again inviting friends of my daughter to help. After all, the more hands the merrier. Needless to say, we’ll also be making an extra batch of Else’s saffron bread when our son arrives home next week – but we couldn’t wait until then.

Else’s Saffron Bread

Active Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 2 hours and 45 minutes
Makes about 24 buns

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar plus 2/3 cup
2/3 cup unsalted European-style butter
2 cups whole milk
2 envelopes active dry yeast
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 1/2 to 7 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup raisins, plus extra for garnish
1 large egg, lightly beaten

1. In a small bowl, crush the saffron and the 1/4 teaspoon sugar with a spoon.

2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the milk, and heat over medium-low heat until warm to the touch (about 110°F).

3. Place the yeast in a large bowl, add 1/4 cup of the warm milk, and stir to dissolve. Let the mixture stand until it foams, 5 to 10 minutes.

4. Add the remaining milk and the saffron, the 2/3 cup sugar, and the salt, and stir once or twice to blend. Add 6 1/2 cups flour to the bowl and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. The dough should be sticky but not too wet; add more flour, a little at a time, until you reach the desired consistency. Stir in the 1/2 cup raisins and then knead the dough until it pulls away from the bowl and is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.

5. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and place in a warm draft-free spot, such as the oven with the pilot light on. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Punch the dough down and let stand at room temperature for 45 minutes.

6. Preheat the oven to 425°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll the dough into shapes by grabbing a small handful and, with light hands, roll into a 1/2 inch thick rope. Shape the rope into an “S” shape, or braid 2 ropes together. Place the shapes on a baking tray.

7. Lightly brush the breads with the egg and garnish the folds and corners with a few raisins. (Add the raisins after you glaze the bread to prevent them from burning.)

8. Bake until puffed and golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool slightly on wire racks. Repeat with the remaining dough. Serve warm with butter.

Roasted Pears and Yogurt Streusel

pear yogurt crumble tfPosted by Lynda Balslev

Fall on a plate: Burnished Warren pears, toasted streusel and golden honey. I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Or in this case, turn down an offer for a box of pears from Frog Hollow Farm – especially in the fall, when I love to bake fruit crisps, crumbles and tarte tatins. This recipe is a “healthy” version of a crumble, with pear halves roasted in the oven, then topped with yogurt, honey and a streusel topping. Call it a healthy dessert or a decadent breakfast, but just be sure to make it.

Roasted Pears and Yogurt Streusel
Serves 4

2 ripe but firm pears, such as Warren or Bartlett
Extra-virgin olive oil
Granulated sugar
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoons runny honey, plus extra for drizzling

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cut the pears in half lengthwise and remove the cores. Brush the cut sides with olive oil and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Place in a baking pan and roast in the oven, cut side up, until tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes.

Combine the oats, walnuts, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon oil and mix to coat. Spread on a small rimmed baking pan and bake in the oven until golden brown, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Whisk the yogurt and honey in a small bowl. Arrange the pears in bowls. Spoon the yogurt into the centers of the pears. Sprinkle the streusel over the yogurt and pears. Drizzle with additional honey.

*Disclosure: I received a complimentary box of Warren pears from Frog Hollow Farm with no obligation to write about the product. All opinions are my own.  This recipe is inspired by and adapted from a recipe by Bon Appetit.

Bircher Muesli

birchermeusli 1

I had my first bircher muesli in Switzerland. Bircher Muesli is a hearty alpine favorite and a breakfast staple. No wonder: it’s a healthy, satisfying and refreshing start to any day. The technique to bircher muesli is an overnight soaking of oats, steeped in milk or yogurt. Just before serving additional ingredients such as grated apple, dried fruit and nuts are folded in. Feel free to experiment with extra ingredients and toppings such as chia seeds, pepitas, dried cranberries, and fresh berries. If you are feeling luxurious, a dollop or two of whipped cream may also be gently folded in at the end (I call this the I-am-on-holiday ingredient).

Bircher Muesli
Serves 2

1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 cup whole milk plain yogurt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 green apple, cored and grated
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/4 cup raisins
Shaved unsweetened coconut
Honey (optional)

Mix the oats, apple juice, yogurt and cinnamon in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.
Before serving, stir in the grated apple, half of the raisins and almonds. If too thick, thin with additional yogurt or milk to desired consistency. (If you are on holiday, then add the whipped cream).
Serve garnished with remaining nuts, raisins and the coconut. Drizzle with a little honey if desired.

Apple Cinnamon Cake with Raisins and Walnuts

apple cake tastefood

~ Apple Cinnamon Cake with Raisins and Walnuts ~

When things get busy and stressful, I head to the kitchen. Mind you, I’m normally in my kitchen anyway, developing and testing recipes, preparing meals for clients, and always making a dinner of some sort. But that’s not what I’m talking about. My to-do list is seemingly endless right now, and this weekend I needed a break. So I put aside my oil splotched recipe notes, shopping lists and white board (yes, I have a white board in my kitchen) and closed my laptop. I  asked my son what I should bake – something sweet, something frivolous, something unplanned. He instantly asked for an apple cinnamon cake I used to bake, and I knew exactly which one he meant. It’s a simple crusty-topped cake studded with fruit and nuts that my kids love and I used to make for afternoon coffee and tea – when I actually used to have afternoon coffee and tea in another life we lived in Europe.

The recipe I used back then was from an old Gourmet magazine and sadly long misplaced or packed. But I remembered seeing a recipe over at Food52 for a classic, popular cake they loved which closely resembled my memory of this cake. That I could find, and here it is:

Apple Cake with Raisins and Walnuts

adapted from Food52 and a distant family memory

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil, such as grape seed
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
6 tart apples, peeled, cored, cut in coarse chunks
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup raisins

Heat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9 by 12-inch baking pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and butter the parchment.
Beat the oil and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until light, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well.
Whisk the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Add to the batter and mix to combine. Stir in the apples, walnuts and raisins. Pour into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. Bake until a toothpick inserted comes clean, about 1 hour. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Serve at room temperature. (The flavors will develop once the cake has cooled).
Cut in pieces and serve sprinkled with powdered sugar.