My Kitchen Go-To: Quick and Easy Shakshuka

Quick & Easy Shakshuka

Quick & Easy Shakshuka

This, right here, is what I like to make when I’m in a bit of a kitchen rut and have no idea what I want to eat for dinner… or breakfast… or lunch… or when I’m having people over for brunch… Really, it’s an anytime dish that is way too easy to make.

Quick and smokey shakshuka with feta and lemon-y, parsley-y couscous is as easy as chopping a few things, boiling water, heating some sauce, and poaching some eggs. A delish anytime meal, lickety-split.


Quick and Easy Shakshuka

Serves 4 

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
½ teaspoon dried chili flakes
½ teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons white wine, optional
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 – 796ml (28oz) can of crushed tomatoes
4 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, divided
2 cups couscous
4 - 8 eggs, depending on how hungry you are
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Crumbled feta cheese, to taste
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and add the onions.  Season with a bit of salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, for about 6 minutes or until the onions start to soften.  Add the finely minced garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes or so just to cook off some of that raw garlic hit. Stir in the smoked paprika, chili flakes, and cumin and allow the spices to toast for about 1 minute or so. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, if using, or add two tablespoons of water.

Add the halved cherry tomatoes and continue to cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until the tomatoes start to break down a bit.  Add the canned tomatoes and stir well to combine.  Cover the pan and lower the heat.  Allow the sauce to simmer away for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in 2 tablespoons of parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Meanwhile, set your kettle to boil and pour your couscous into a heatproof bowl.  When the water has boiled, pour 2 cups of boiling water onto the couscous, season with salt and pepper, stir, and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Allow this to sit for about 8 to 10 minutes while you finish up your shakshuka.

Using a spoon, make slight wells in the tomato sauce and crack an egg into each.  Cover and cook the eggs over medium-low heat until the whites are firm and the yolks are just slightly cooked but still runny, about 6 to 8 minutes.

Fluff your couscous with a fork, stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice, and remaining parsley, and divide between four plates.  Top each plate with an egg or two plus a good dose of that sauce and scatter with crumbled feta cheese.

*Personally, I’m a big fan of leftover shakshuka for breakfast after a late night out with too much wine

Date Night In: Brown Butter Lobster Tortellini

Brown Butter Lobster Tortellini

Brown Butter Lobster Tortellini

Valentine’s Day.

To be honest, Aaron and I aren’t really all that into it. It’s mushy and romantic, two words that don’t really describe our relationship. It’s also a day where you know that everyone around you in a restaurant is on a date and
that
is
weird.

For us, Valentine’s is usually just a night in with a home cooked meal that seems much fancier than a normal night’s feast but, in reality, is just as easy to whip up.

I mean, any excuse to open a bottle of wine and dig into a big plate of brown butter lobster tortellini mid-week is reason enough for to celebrate, right?


Brown Butter Lobster Tortellini

Serves 2

 1 batch Basic Pasta Dough or 25–30 wonton wrappers
2 fresh (or frozen and thawed) 175g lobster tails
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1–2 cloves garlic, finely minced
½ lemon, zested and juiced
Pinch red chili flakes
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon
2/3 cup smooth ricotta cheese
1 egg yolk
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce and serving
3–4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
½ lemon, zested and juiced
Kosher salt
Fresh tarragon and parsley, finely chopped
Pecorino Romano cheese

Prepare a batch of Basic Pasta Dough, cover, and set aside (or set out your wonton wrappers, cover, and set aside).

Remove the lobster meat from the shells by cutting down the centre of each tail with a pair of kitchen shears, splitting the shell open, and extracting all of the meat. Chop the meat into small pieces and set aside.

In a medium non-stick skillet, melt the butter and cook until it starts to turn lightly golden brown. Add in the chopped lobster meat as well as the finely minced garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until the lobster meat is just cooked through. Add in the lemon zest, lemon juice, chili flakes, and herbs and transfer the meat to a bowl. Set aside to cool slightly.

When cooled, stir in the ricotta cheese and egg yolk and season well with salt and pepper.

To form the tortellini, roll out the pasta dough into very thin sheets.  Using a 4-inch round cutter, cut out as many circles as possible (you can also use a knife to cut 4-inch squares).  Place a rounded teaspoon of the lobster filling into the middle of each pasta shape.  Dip your finger in a bowl of water and run it along the edge to moisten.  Fold the dough over to form a half moon (or triangles) around the filling, press well to seal, then draw the two corners of the half moon together to form a little tortellini shape.  Press tightly to join the two corners together and place your formed tortellini onto a flour dusted baking sheet, leaving room between each shape. 

For the brown butter sauce, add the butter to a large stainless steel sauté pan and set it over medium heat. Allow the butter to melt and brown, stirring occasionally. As soon as the butter is golden, add in the black pepper and halved cherry tomatoes and cook for 1 to 2 minutes or just until the tomatoes start to soften up. Add in the lemon zest and juice and remove the pan from the heat.

Cook the tortellini in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes for fresh pasta or 2 minutes for wonton wrappers or until the tortellini bob up to the surface and is cooked to your liking.

When the tortellini is cooked, transfer them directly to the brown butter and toss to combine. Add in a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking liquid and give the tortellini a toss so that it is thoroughly coated with the brown butter sauce. Season with a pinch of kosher salt, toss in some fresh herbs and serve, topped with a scattering of Pecorino Romano.

Tea for Two and Two (Teas) for Tea: Earl Grey Tea Loaf

Earl Grey Tea Loaf

Earl Grey Tea Loaf

Loaves are, in my humble opinion, the underrated hero of the cake world. They often appear understated but, ooo baby, can they ever pack a flavour punch! This little earl grey number is one of my go-tos for tea time when I want to amp up a classic tea loaf just a bit.

It’s pretty darn easy to make and decorate and even easier to unwittingly polish off.

I mean, I can’t be the only one who continually goes back for “just another sliver” only to realize I’ve eaten half a loaf, right?


Earl Grey Tea Cake

 Makes 1 loaf

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Earl Grey tea leaves, very finely ground
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup Earl Grey infused milk, room temperature, recipe follows
Earl Grey glaze, recipe follows
Loose leaf Earl Grey tea, for decorating
Lemon zest, for decorating

Preheat your oven to 350ºF and lightly grease a 9- by 5-inch standard loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.

In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Stir in the tea leafs and set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  This should take about 2 minutes using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  Add the eggs, one at a time, then add in the vanilla and mix well to combine. 

With the mixer running on low, add in 1/3 of the flour followed by ½ of the earl grey infused milk and repeat until all of the flour and milk are used up.  Mix just until combined.  Scrape the batter into your prepared loaf pan and bake in a preheated oven for 45 to 55 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool slightly in the pan then turn the cake out onto a cooling rack to cool completely. 

Once cool, drizzle the top of the loaf with a generous helping of Earl Grey Glaze and a scattering of loose leaf Earl Grey tea and some lemon zest. 

Earl Grey Milk

1 cup 2% or whole milk
1 Earl Grey tea bag

Heat the milk in the microwave and add the tea bag.  Allow this to steep for 10 – 15 minutes to infuse the milk then remove the tea bag.


Earl Grey Glaze

2 ¼ cups icing sugar
1 bag Earl Grey tea, cut open
3­–4 tablespoons milk or Earl Grey Milk, plus more if needed
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon lemon juice

In a small bowl, whisk together the icing sugar, tea leafs, milk, vanilla, and lemon juice.  If the glaze seems a bit thick, simply add a bit more milk to thin it out.  If it is too thin, add some more icing sugar.

My Favourite Breakfast Sandwich: Eggy Banh Mi with Coconut Bacon

Breakfast Banh Mi w/ Coconut Bacon

Breakfast Banh Mi w/ Coconut Bacon

If you ever find yourself in Kitchener, Ontario, do yourself a favour and visit The Yeti Cafe near the Kitchener Market. It is, hands down, my all-time favourite breakfast place ever and their vegan bacon (aka jazcon) is out of control delicious. I genuinely think I could eat the equivalent of my bodyweight in this stuff and I would have no regrets.

This here is my take on their vegan bacon scattered onto my take on a breakfast-y banh mi. It’s my favourite at-home breakfast sandwich to whip up on a lazy Saturday morning!

Also, hot tip, even if you don’t make this full recipe, just give hoisin a try on your next eggy breakfast sandwich. It’s a trick I learned from the geniuses over at The Yeti and it has changed my breakfast sandwich game for the better.


Veg-Friendly Breakfast Banh Mi

Makes 4 sandwiches

For the Do Chua (Vietnamese Quick Pickle)
½ small daikon radish, peeled and julienned
2–3 medium carrots, peeled and julienned
1 cup water
½ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt

For the coconut bacon
1 ½ cups large unsweetened coconut flakes*
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 ½ tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon liquid smoke**
2 teaspoons maple syrup
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

For the sandwiches
8 eggs
4 banh mi buns, like fresh small baguettes or Portuguese rolls, split
½ cup mayonnaise, divided
¼ cup hoisin sauce, divided
Coconut bacon (regular bacon would be great too)
½ cucumber, thinly sliced lengthwise with a vegetable peeler
Do Chua, drained
Cilantro
Sliced green onions
Sriracha, optional 

For the Do Chua (quick pickle), mix the daikon and carrots together and place them into a large glass bowl or jar. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the water, rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. Stir the mixture until the sugar and salt have dissolved then pour it over the daikon and carrots. Place the veg in the fridge to pickle for at least 20 minutes or up to one week. 

For the coconut bacon, preheat your oven to 350ºF and line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. In a large bowl, toss together the coconut flakes, oil, tamari or soy sauce, liquid smoke, maple syrup, smoked paprika, and five-spice until very well combined. Spread the coconut out onto your prepared baking sheet and bake in your preheated oven for 10 to 13 minutes, giving the coconut a stir about halfway through. Keep your eye on it because coconut tends to go from golden and delicious to burnt and inedible pretty quickly. Remove the coconut bacon from the oven and allow it to cool to room temperature.

To assemble the breakfast banh mi, fry the eggs to however you like them and spread each of the buns with a good helping of mayonnaise and hoisin sauce. Layer a hefty ¼ cup of coconut bacon overtop followed by cucumber slices, two eggs, Do Chua pickles, and a scattering of cilantro and green onions. Drizzle the top with sriracha if you like things a little spicy and dig in! 

*Be sure to use large coconut flakes, not shredded coconut.

**Liquid smoke is available at most larger grocery stores as well as through Amazon