Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Shakshouka and Israeli Salad

Shakshouka and Israeli Salad

Many years ago I found a recipe for Shakshouka and decided to make some for a brunch I was having. I really liked it, and it is something I still make from time to time, if I have the time to prepare it. I had never eaten anyone else's though, so it was something I intended to search out when we decided to go to Israel. 

Shakshouka is a breakfast dish, and I found some at a buffet in one of the hotels we were staying at. At another hotel, the famous King David Hotel, I had it made for me for my breakfast. Both shakshoukas were very nice, but not “wow”, and the upshot was that I am very happy with my own version and don't see any reason to change it. 

The dish is very like Huevos Rancheros, and if you told someone that it was Huevos Rancheros, they would not bat an eyelash. For mine, I use plenty of garlic, an onion, whatever I have for tomatoes (sometimes fresh, sometimes canned) and a red pepper. If I have yellow or green peppers, I might add those too. One ought to put some red pepper flakes in it as well; sometimes I do, sometimes, I don't. Saute all those vegetables in a small amount of oil, and then put a lid on it for about fifteen to twenty minutes. When the vegetables are cooked down well, break some eggs into the mixture to poach and put the lid back on. Check it in a few minutes to make sure you don't overcook the eggs. One article I saw called for doing the poaching in the oven and then serving the shakshouka and the eggs on sliced fresh tomatoes. That's a little bit too much work for me, and stovetop works perfectly well.

Israeli Salad is also a tomato dish. The salad is everywhere in Israel. I don't think I saw a restaurant without a version of it. The basic salad is chopped cucumbers and chopped tomatoes. All the salads that I saw looked liked they were cut with a mandoline.* (There were a lot of other chopped salads as well, and those too were very uniform. The mandoline must be the Israeli equivalent of the Chef's Knife.) The dressing for the Israeli Salad is lemon juice and olive oil. When the salad was served at a buffet, the cucumbers and tomatoes were in separate bowls, and there were other bowls of chopped vegetables as well, like cabbage or red and green peppers and red onions. Beside the bowls would be a carafe of olive oil and a carafe of lemon juice, so that you could prepare the dressing to your own taste. In addition to the Israeli salad “fixings” on the buffets there were other salad “fixings” that were more American style, with tomato wedges and pepper rings and large pieces of lettuce. All of the salads were served at both lunches and breakfasts. Breakfast buffets were bit like Las Vegas style buffets (but on a smaller scale) with different ethnic dishes together with dishes that you might serve at either breakfast or lunch normally, but not both. I had salads of various kinds at every meal we ate in Israel. That's to be expected as a celiac, but it helped that salads are a really big part of the Israeli cuisine.

*I asked for and got a mandoline for Christmas, but it weighed a ton and would be a lot harder to use than a knife and cutting boards. That means my own chopped salads are less than uniform, but I do still have all my fingers.


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