eggs

Bulgur Wheat Varnishkes

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Tisha B’av isn’t one of the better-known Jewish holidays. I’ve heard people say “oh yeah, I think that’s when you can’t get married.” Or, “you can’t get a haircut or listen to music.”

All true, and much more, and that’s because, unlike holidays when we celebrate joyful occasions such as a new year or deliverance from Pharaoh, Tisha B’av is when observant Jews mourn the destruction of the First and Second Temples. In addition, we remember the numerous times throughout history that the Jewish people were subjected to pogroms, exile and a multitude of other catastrophes. These are days that we don’t celebrate; we grieve.

Mournful times deserve respect and reflection. During the nine days leading up to the actual holiday (which begins at sundown on August 10th) many families will refrain from the usual pleasure-filled events and activities that make up our lives.

That includes getting married or getting a haircut or listening to music.

It also includes refraining from eating certain foods.

Tisha B’av is a full fast day, but during the days leading up to it many families don’t eat meat. Fish, dairy, vegetarian — is on the menu, and especially eggs and lentils, which are considered “mourner’s food.”

It’s just as well frankly. Skipping heavy meat meals during the hot weather makes good sense. It’s a whole lot smarter to eat fish, dairy and vegetarian.

Whether or not you follow the culinary guidelines during the Nine Days, this dish will do!

Anytime.

It’s my particular riff on classic kasha varnishkes. Our family really doesn’t like kasha, so I make the dish using bulgur wheat. Not only does it taste better, it’s easier to prepare and easier on the digestion.

Bulgur wheat or kasha varnishkes is usually a side dish, but it becomes a full meal if you add a fried egg or two on top.

Bulgur Wheat Varnishkes

  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 cup bulgur wheat

  • 1-3/4 cup water, vegetable stock (can use chicken stock)

  • 2 large onions, chopped

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • 6 ounces bow-tie pasta

  • 6 fried eggs

Heat 3 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the bulgur wheat and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3-4 minutes or until lightly toasted. Pour in the water or stock, bring to a boil, lower the heat and cover the pan. Cook for about 20 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons vegetable oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring often, or until the onions are soft and browned. Cook the pasta according to directions on the package. Combine the bulgur wheat, pasta and onions in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Keep warm while you fry 6 eggs, sunnyside-up style.

Makes 6 servings

 

Avocado, California's Big Winner

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When I was a young Mom I met another young woman for a playdate for our daughters. She lived in the same town in Connecticut as I did, but had originally come from California. We became friends, and so did our kids, and we spent time together talking about things most mothers talk about. School. Babysitters. What our children should/don't/won't eat.

We also talked about food. One day she mentioned avocado. 

What?

Please don't think I'm a dinosaur, but back in the late 1970s avocados were not a thing. REALLY! I had heard of them. In fact once, when I was a little girl my mother took me for lunch at Lord & Taylor in the city and I insisted on trying tuna-salad-filled avocado (which my mother let me do although she insisted I would hate it -- and I did). 

I hadn't had an avocado since that time.

And I had not yet heard of guacamole, which this women raved about. She said everyone in California made guacamole. So, I started to also.

Now, these many years (and thousands of avocados later) I can say I am well acquainted with avocados, not just for guacamole but for dozens and dozens of recipes

Many thanks to the woman who name-dropped avocado. Many thanks to California, thriving avocado country (in fact, according to The California Difference, the Hass avocado is a California native).

Today that state will have its presidential primaries. And no matter who you are rooting for, I can say without question, the avocado is the state's big winner.

Avocado, Egg and Tomato Sandwich with Pesto Mayonnaise

  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 slices Tuscan-Italian style bread
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1 tomato, sliced

In a bowl, combine the mayonnaise, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, basil and garlic and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate until ready to use (may be made 2 days ahead). Toast the bread slices lightly. While the bread is toasting, heat the butter in a small pan over medium heat. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, pour in the eggs and cook, moving the egg around slightly to allow wet portions to reach the bottom of the pan. When the egg is almost cooked, flip it over, cook briefly and remove from the pan. Spread some of the pesto mayonnaise on 2 slices of the toasted bread. Top each with half the cooked egg. Top with slices of avocado and tomato. Cover with remaining bread slice. Cut sandwiches in half.

Makes 2 servings

New Year's Shakshuka

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I'm finding it a bit weird to be thinking about New Year's, even though we are well into December, because the weather where I live is balmy. For Connecticut in December that is. It feels more like October.

It is December though and New Year's is coming and Ed and I always spend New Year's Eve with my brother and sister-in-law, Jeff and Eileen, and also cousins Leslie and Neil. Then Les and Neil stay for a few days and we just hang out, watch movies and eat. And drink.

Most of the time we have smoked fish for breakfast 3-4 days in a row but for several reasons we are changing course this year. One day of lox-and-bagels will do.

So then what?

I'm planning to serve shakshuka one morning. I have several versions, some with cheese, some with mergeuz sausage, some all-vegetarian. Some with middle eastern seasonings, some with Mediterranean herbs such as basil or oregano. A quickie or two.

This is the one I'm thinking of for this year, a substantial dish that reminds me of Huevos Rancheros. The pita bread sops up the juices from the vegetables. Also, the eggs aren't poached, but baked under a layer of grated cheese. I can set this up ahead and just pop it into the oven before we are ready to eat.

Huevos Rancheros Shakshuka

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 medium serrano pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 4 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 pita breads
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, bell pepper and serrano pepper and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the vegetables have softened.

Add the tomatoes, cilantro, cumin, salt and pepper. Turn the heat to low, cover the pan and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes or until the ingredients are soft and sauce-like.

While the sauce is cooking, spread the butter over one side of the pitas and place the pitas in a large baking pan. When the sauce is done, spoon it over the bread.

Crack the eggs into a small bowl one at a time then transfer each one next to the other on top of the vegetables. Sprinkle the cheese on top. Place the baking pan in the oven and cook for 15-18 minutes or until the eggs are cooked but with slightly runny yolks and the cheese is hot and bubbly.

For a crispier looking top, place the pan under the broiler for a minute or so.

Makes 4 servings.



Mock Shak

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It isn't Shakshuka. But this dish is a quick, incredibly satisfying substitute.

Or maybe just it's own thing.

It came about this way: I had some roasted tomatoes left over and wanted to use them in some other way than the leftover reheat.

But I didn't feel like cooking anything extravagant. So I made the leftover reheat.

But then I topped it with sunnyside egg/runny yolks, which I think can make just about any vegetable dish worthier.

This quick Mock Shak is a good bet for lunch, brunch and even dinner when you don't feel like fussing or spending too much time making a meal.

Obviously you can make the tomatoes a day or two ahead and reheat.

Glorious isn't it?

Mock Shak

  • 12 plum tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1-2 tablespoon butter or olive oil
  • 4-8 large eggs
  • grated Parmesan cheese, optional
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Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise and place them cut side up in a baking dish large enough to hold them in a single layer. Brush the tops with olive oil and scatter the garlic on top. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, basil and parsley. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft. Place 6 halves on each of four plates.

When the tomatoes are almost finished roasting, heat the butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat (or use two pans if making 8 eggs). When the butter has melted and looks foamy, crack 4 eggs into the pan (or 4 eggs into each of the two pans) and cook them, sunnyside-up style until cooked to the desired doneness. Place one or two eggs one each dish over the roasted tomatoes. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

 

Makes 4 servings

 

Egg Salad — My Go-To Staple

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Egg Salad — My Go-To Staple

The kids are coming for the holiday weekend, so I’ve just made some egg salad. There’s always egg salad in my fridge. It’s like having salt and pepper in the cabinet, a no-brainer nibble. I make egg salad because everyone eats it. On a sandwich or crackers or cucumber slices or just plain on the plate. For lunch or as a snack or even for breakfast. 

Egg salad is my all-purpose go-to dish.

My son-in-law Jesse teases me about it. He rolls his eyes when he sees the fresh batch in the fridge. But then he takes it out and has some. If there weren’t any egg salad there he’d be upset that something was wrong.

I’ve tasted all sorts of egg salad over the years. My mother made it with onion and sometimes cooked potato. That was delicious. I’ve tasted egg salad with fresh dill. That’s good too. And there have been tastes of egg salad with olive, tuna, salmon, cooked peas and carrots and so on.

All good. But not plain old egg salad. I am an egg salad purist. I like it plain and always make it the same way. People say they like it because it’s dry, not overly loaded with mayonnaise — I use a microplane to crush the hard cooked eggs (you use less mayo that way). The only thing I change is the dish I serve it in. 

Everyone loves my egg salad, which is basically this: 

Egg Salad

  • 8 hard cooked eggs
  • 2-1/2 to 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1-2 teaspoons Dijon mustard if you must

Crush the eggs using the finest grater possible (microplane is best) into a bowl. Add 2-1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise, season with salt, pepper (and mustard if you like it) and mix with a fork. Add slightly more mayonnaise if the egg crumbles don’t hold together.

Makes 4 servings