The Shiksa’s Shakshuka

I’ve been meaning to try the shakshuka recipe from The Shiksa in the Kitchen for ages.  Tori’s blog, which focuses on food history and culture while spotlighting Jewish and Israeli recipes, is one of my favorites.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say that she’s my food blogger hero.  Her recipes are presented step-by-step with clear photographs; she always includes a back story that is very engaging; the dishes she presents are invariably fun and delicious; she is a fellow history nerd; her photography is amazing; and, reading her blog, I always, always learn something.  If you’re confused and/or offended by her choice of moniker, read her explanation here.

I became interested in Judaism and Jewish culture in 2009 when my best friend invited me to attend a class with her at Congregation Shir Ami in Cedar Park.  One of my favorite things about Jewish culture is, of course, the emphasis on food and celebration.

Though I have little interest in eating kosher (after two years as a vegan, self-limiting my culinary options and segregating myself from almost everyone else through ideological food choices, I can’t see myself ever going down that path again), I find the history of Jewish food fascinating.  It is a story of adaptation and innovation, stretching over six continents, and underpinned by a deep, joyous love of food and community.  And it’s not all gefilte fish and matzoh balls, as evidenced by the diversity of mouth-watering recipes on Tori’s blog.

I had planned to make more Italian hot beef sausage with cheesy mashed cauliflower last night, but then Tori reposted the Shiksa’s Shakshuka, and I was reminded that I still hadn’t given it a try.  It has always looked so good–I can’t believe it’s been nearly two years since she posted it, and I hadn’t tried it yet!  So last night, having all the ingredients on hand, I whipped up a batch.  It was easy, affordable, and filling.

We love eggs for dinner at my house, so it was a winner.  In addition to adding two homegrown serrano chiles for added heat, I did make a couple of changes to Tori’s recipe: I used a yellow bell pepper that I had on hand, and I added a splash of red wine!  L’chaim!

Go check out Tori’s amazing post about this popular Israeli dish, and get the recipe here.

Schmaltz Roasted Potatoes with Crunchy Sage

The secret ingredient? Schmaltz!

2 large baking potatoes
1/4 to 1/2 cup chicken schmaltz
1 Tbsp olive oil
handful fresh sage
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375°. Meanwhile, peel and roughly chop potatoes into medium-sized chunks. Boil in a large pot for approximately 8 minutes until you can easily puncture them with a knife, but so that they are still solid.

2. Spoon your schmaltz into a medium roasting tin. Place it on your stovetop or (briefly) inside your oven, until the fat is mostly melted. Remove from heat.

3. Drain the potatoes and place them in the roasting tin. Stir gently to distribute the now-liquid fat, then drizzle in the oil. Bake for approximately 15 minutes.

4 Meanwhile, gather and chop your sage, if applicable. After about 15 minutes of baking, remove the potatoes, add the sage, and gently stir again. Place back in the oven for 5-10 minutes, or until potatoes are fully cooked and beginning to brown. At this point, move the roasting tin to the top shelf, turn your oven to broil, and monitor the potatoes until they are nicely browned and glistening.

5. Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon (feel free to reserve some of the grease for dripping on the potatoes, though!), and be sure to fish out the little pieces of schmaltz-fried sage. Top with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.

These are also excellent as leftovers, but be aware: they will lose their signature crunchiness. I like to refresh and reuse them by frying them alongside my sizzling bacon in the morning! If schmaltz-roasted potatoes weren’t decadent enough for you, try schmaltz-roasted, bacon-grease-fried breakfast potatoes.

I make no apologies.

Zucchini and Potato Latkes with Creamy Horseradish Almond Sauce

I love potatoes, horseradish, and anything fried.

I can’t be the only one, either. These crispy potato fritters will make your mouth water; the horseradish sauce might make your eyes water!

Believe it or not, I created these beautiful latkes without even using egg. This is a great way to use up any potatoes and zucchini in the kitchen–much more exciting than a simple vegetable roast, and not much more complicated. These make a great weeknight treat, and of course they’re an excellent twist on the Hanukkah classic. I must confess, though, I eat them year-round!

For the latkes
~ 6 potatoes, peeled
1 large zucchini, peeled
1 small onion, finely diced
1 cup white flour or corn starch (or, indeed, other vegetable starch)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
butter or vegetable oil to fry

For the sauce
3/4 cup raw sliced or chopped almonds
3/4 cup milk or almond milk
2 Tbsp fresh horseradish
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp dried dill
2 cloves garlic, minced
splash lemon juice

1. Grate potatoes and zucchini into large mixing bowl.

2. Adding onion, mix lightly with fingers. Add flour, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mix thoroughly with hands.

3. Bring a good amount of butter to medium high to high heat in a large skillet.

4. Meanwhile, combine all sauce ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy; set aside.

5. Form potato and zucchini mixture into small balls, then flatten them between your palms. Gently drop them into hot oil. Fry on each side for about 5-7 minutes, or until nicely browned. Drain oil on paper towels.

6. Serve latkes warm on a bed of mixed greens with creamy horseradish sauce as garnish.

Makes about eight latkes.