Tamara Duker Freuman, MS, RD, CDN
The Bloated Belly Whisperer
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Recipes Index

I like to cook. And I'm undaunted by the challenge of cooking for folks with restricted diets for reasons of celiac disease, digestive intolerances or allergies. Some of my favorite recipes are housed here-- feel free to poke around and see what looks good!

Posts in Lunch & Dinner
Roasted Eggplant with Tahini and Pomegranate
 
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While the rhythms of our social life signal fall, the Farmer's markets and backyard gardens alike are still sending off summery signals, and one of them is a bounty of eggplant.  

I came late to the eggplant game, having decided at some point in childhood or early adulthood that I didn't like it.  It was only after being invited to a dinner party at the home of a vegetarian of Iraqi descent did I realize that I liked eggplant.  A lot. At least, I liked eggplant the way he made it.

This recipe is a little bit inspired by my friend Amos and a little bit inspired by the flavors of the great vegetarian chef, Yotam Ottolenghi.  It's total Mediterranean diet fare, and perfect for this time of year, when eggplants are abundantly available and pomegranates are just starting to show up in the supermarket.

This recipe is naturally gluten-free, dairy-free/vegan and can be easily adjusted to be low FODMAP as described in the directions below,

Roasted Eggplant with Tahini and Pomegranate

Ingredients: 

  • 1 medium/large eggplant
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 cup tahini paste
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced or crushed (omit to make the recipe low FODMAP)
  • Hot water
  • Garnishes (optional but highly recommended): cilantro, parsley, fresh mint leaves and/or pomegranate seeds***

Directions:

  1.  Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees farenheit and line 2 large baking trays with parchment paper
  2.  Prep eggplant for roasting as follows:
    • Peel if you dislike the skin (or find it difficult to tolerate digestively).  Otherwise, leave the skin on.
    • Cut eggplant into 1" cubes
    • Arrange eggplant cubes on a paper towel lined plate (choose dye-free paper towels), sprinkle lightly with kosher salt, and microwave on high for about 5-8 minutes or until cubes are shriveled to about half their original size. (This will help reduce the eggplant's absorptive capacity so it doesn't sop up all the roasting oil and get greasy.)
  3. Remove the shriveled eggplant from microwave and transfer them to the parchment lined baking trays.  Drizzle enough olive oil on each tray to coat the cubes lightly and toss gently with your hands to disperse the oil evenly.
  4. Roast eggplant in the oven for 14-18 minutes, or until cubes are soft and some have begun to caramelize. (Toss the pieces after 7-8 minutes to help ensure even browning.)
  5. Meanwhile, while the eggplant is roasting, prepare the tahini sauce as follows:
    • Combine tahini paste in a small bowl with the lemon juice, cumin, salt and garlic***  Stir all ingredients to combine.
    • Start adding hot water 1 TBSP at a time, mixing as you go, to thin the the tahini mixture into a drizzly sauce.  
  6. Drizzle tahini sauce on roasted eggplant cubes, top with garnishes and serve.

***Note: To make low FODMAP, omit the garlic.  You can replace it with 1 TBSP garlic infused olive oil for the flavor without the FODMAPs if you wish.  Up to 1/4 cup of pomegranate seeds is considered a low FODMAP serving.  

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Butternut Squash Souffle
 
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If you thought that the children of dietitians spring forth from the womb with a congenital love of orange vegetables, you would be mistaken.  I've been cooking for my littles for almost seven years, and they've yet to embrace winter squash... with the exception of this recipe for Butternut Squash Souffle, which we call "squash cake" at home for marketing purposes. Yes, it's got added sugar in it, which makes it less righteous than, say, a kale salad. But I surrendered my moral high ground when I traded in my Prius for a minivan. So my kids eat a vegetable that's been enhanced with sugar. Judge me all you want. I think they deserve at least half credit.

Squash souffle a great fall side dish recipe for your Thanksgiving table and holiday potlucks. Leftovers make a lovely brunch base: top with eggs, melted cheese, leftover grilled asparagus spears or anything else you can think of. 

Butternut Squash Souffle

Ingredients: 

  • 20oz cubed butternut squash, steamed until very soft and mashed (or two 10-oz packages of frozen pureed winter squash)
  • 1/2 cup flour of your choice (I use Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1 Gluten-free baking flour; almond flour also works great)
  • 1/4 cup + 1 TBSP sugar (separated)
  • 1/4 cup oil (olive or canola)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1.5 cups milk of your choice (conventional or lactose-free cow's milk and almond work equally well)
  • 2 TBSP cinnamon

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Prepare your squash (steam your raw cubes and them mash them into a puree... or defrost the packages of frozen puree) and set aside
  3. Mix together the cinnamon with the 1 TBSP sugar you set aside
  4. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and then add in flour, 1/4 cup of the sugar, oil and milk.  Beat until well combined.
  5. Add squash to the egg mixture and stir to combine well
  6. Spray a 9 x 13" OR 9" round baking dish with non-stick spray, and pour mixture into baking dish 
  7. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove from oven to sprinkle top with cinnamon/sugar mixture. 
  8. Put back in oven and bake an additional 30 minutes, or until the souffle is set. (It should be firm to the touch in the center; baking time will vary based on size of the baking dish you use)
  9. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.  

NOTE: If you serve it still warm, the souffle will be yummy but have an un-formed souffle/spoonbread type consistency. If you serve it fully cooled (or refrigerate overnight and reheat the next day), you can cut it into squares or wedges and they will hold their shape like a cake; hence the nickname "squash cake."

Serve warm, room temperature or cold.

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Low Fat Black Bean and Plantain Tamales
 
The great tamale makeover: Mashed plantains replace traditionally high-fat tamale dough to delicious results.  (image T. Freuman)

The great tamale makeover: Mashed plantains replace traditionally high-fat tamale dough to delicious results. (image T. Freuman)

When the universe closes a door, it opens a window.

And indeed it was so when our attempt to follow a recipe for a (naturally gluten-free) empanada using mashed plantains for the dough failed miserably.  The recipe’s chipotle-spiked black bean filling was nothing short of miraculous.  But while the plantain-based dough made a delectable fork-mate to the filling, it was too crumbly to respectably envelop it like a proper empanada pocket.  As I wallowed in our tasty but decidedly unphotogenic empanada experiment, my resourceful husband Alex had a brilliant idea: why not change the recipe from empanada to tamale?

And just like that, the window had opened.

A healthy tamale?  ¿Es posible?

Fact #1: Tamales are quite delicious.

Fact #2: Tamales are typically made with a dough that combines masa harina (cornmeal made from corn that’s been soaked in limewater) and a somewhat obscene amount of fat–usually butter or lard.  The lard renders most restaurant tamales off-limits to the vegetarian crowd, and even the butter-based approach makes homemade tamales a tough sell for those of us trying to keep our intake of artery-clogging saturated fat to a minimum.

Given these two facts, the prospect of a tamale dough that’s appropriately textured, 100% fat free, vegetarian and nutritious is a pretty big coup.

A coup, I’m delighted to say, we pulled off, thanks to some cooked mashed plantains and a little bit of creativity.

 

 

Ripe plantains are yellow with black mottling

Ripe plantains are yellow with black mottling

Plantains (plátanos in Spanish) are a fruit that resemble large, thick-skinned bananas and are commonly featured in Caribbean cuisine.  They are used both when unripe (green skin) as well as ripe (yellow to black skin); they are starchier when unripe and sweeter when riper.  Although related to the banana, plantains are usually cooked prior to eating; they have a drier, starchier texture and less banana-ey flavor than bananas.  Nutritionally, they’re closer to a starchy vegetable (like a potato) than to a fruit.  Like potatoes, plantains are a great source of blood-pressure-lowering potassium.  And as I recently discovered, when baked, mashed and lightly salted, plantains provide an excellent, fat-free alternative to a traditional tamale dough. Of course, a quick google search after-the-fact revealed that Alex and I were not the first people to come up with the idea of Plantain Tamales (hmmmph!), but I’m still pretty darn proud of us all the same.

Black Bean & Plantain Tamales 

This recipe was inspired by and adapted from a recipe for Roasted Plantain Empanadas from NYC’s Dos Caminos restaurant’s “Mod Mex” cookbook, by Scott Lundquist and Joanna Pruess.  (The more-addictive-than-crack black bean filling is taken exactly–and reverently– from the cookbook.  I’d suggest doubling the recipe, in fact, if you’d like to serve extra on top of the tamales… or perhaps to accommodate nibbling while you wait patiently for the tamales to cook.)  And if tamales seem like too much work, try making just the filling for omelets or to serve with rice… it’s SO very good.

Makes 6 tamales (serves 2 as an entree or 3 as an appetizer)

Ingredients:

  • 6 dried corn husks, soaked in warm water for 10-15 minutes until soft and bendable

Tamale "dough":

  • 2 medium ripe plantains (skins should be yellow speckled with black or mostly black)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 TBSP chopped fresh cilantro

Tamale Filling:

  • 1 TBSP canola oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup canned black beans
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce, chopped
  • kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions (including green parts)
  • 1 ounce grated cheese (your choice of cotija, feta, pepper jack or sharp cheddar will all work great)

Directions:

Ready to fold: plantain dough topped with black bean filling  (image T.Freuman)

Ready to fold: plantain dough topped with black bean filling (image T.Freuman)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Soak the corn husks in warm water in a large shallow baking dish (per above instructions) prior to getting started.
  3. Make the tamale “dough”: Bake the whole plantains (unpeeled) on a cookie sheet until they are black, bubbly, splitting open and soft in the center.  Remove from oven, let cool and peel.  Place the baked plantains into a food processor with 1/2 tsp salt and chopped cilantro and mix until mashed.  The mixture will be a little dry and crumbly.  Add 1 TBSP water and briefly mix again until a uniform, smooth paste texture is achieved (depending on your plantain’s texture, you may need to adjust the amount of water… if 2 TBSP doesn’t yield a smooth texture, add 1 tsp additional water at a time until you get there.)

4. Make the tamale filling: Heat a medium, non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add oil, then onion, and saute until onion is lightly browned–about 5-6 minutes.  Stir in garlic, cook 1 minute, then add black beans, half of the water (1/4 cup) and the chopped chipotle chili.  As the filling cooks, mash the mixture with a potato masher (or back of a wooden spoon) until chunky-smooth.  Add remaining 1/4 cup water, season to taste with salt.  Add the chopped scallions, the grated cheese and remove from heat.

5. Assemble the tamales: Lay a pre-soaked corn husk flat on working surface.  Spoon ~1/4 cup tamale dough (mashed plantain mixture) onto center of the husk and, using your fingers, spread it on the husk leaving a 1″ border all around.  Spoon 1/6 of the bean mixture across the dough.  Fold the tamale shut as follows: start by pulling up the longer edges of the husk until the edges of the plantain mash meet and fold over onto themselves, forming a tube around the bean filling.  Then, tuck one edge of the husk between the outside of the dough tube and the other husk.  Now you will have a tube-like tamale open on two sides.  Then, fold one of the remaining open sides so that the tamale has only one open end. 

6. Steam the tamales: Drop a penny into a large saucepan and fill with water up until the level of a steamer basket. Bring water to a boil; you will hear the penny rattling around so long as there is sufficient water in the pot.  (Over the course of the cooking time, listen for the penny rattling and add more water to the pot if the rattling sound stops.)  When water is boiling, pile the folded tamales into steamer basket, seam side down, cover saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, and steam for 45 minutes, replenishing water as needed.

7. To serve: Remove tamales from steamer basket.  Place on a plate, unfold the husk, and garnish with salsa of your choice (a chipotle salsa or salsa verde would work great), some additional shredded cheese and/or chopped cilantro to your liking.

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Japchae Noodles
 
Japchae Noodles  (image T. Freuman)

Japchae Noodles (image T. Freuman)

 

I’ve wanted to try making Korean Japchae noodles for ages, but abandoned the project prematurely when I discovered one of the local Korean markets in my neighborhood didn’t sell the star ingredient– sweet potato starch-based vermicelli. Since this signature dish at Korean restaurants contains soy sauce (not gluten-free for a celiac gal like me), I knew that if I was ever going to taste Japchae noodles, I’d better make them myself.

Sweet Potato Vermicelli (ingredients: Sweet Potato starch, water)

Sweet Potato Vermicelli (ingredients: Sweet Potato starch, water)

But after securing the elusive noodles at a local Asian supermarket,  I was in business.  And a small small bundle of additional ingredients later– 1/4 lb of fresh shiitakes, a carrot, some scallions and a bag of baby spinach leaves– I was headed home to try my hand at Korean cooking.

I followed this recipe from Chow.com almost to a tee, swapping out the regular soy sauce for reduced sodium, wheat-free Tamari sauce instead.  It was a FUN recipe to make!  The highlights for me were using kitchen shears to trim fat, sesame-oil slicked noodles into manageable segments (a project I’d recommend you allow an older child to help with… it’s such a tactile pleasure to slice through those plump, slippery things!) and practicing my knife skills to achieve matchstick carrots and paper-thin shiitake slices that would find camouflage enough in the noodles so that my kids won’t pick them out.  To keep this dish interactive, try letting toddlers and preschoolers sprinkle their own sesame seeds on top when serving.

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Gigante Bean Salad
 
Gigante beans: Some foods are OK to supersize

Gigante beans: Some foods are OK to supersize

If you know not the creamy comfort that is biting into an enormous and aptly-named gigante bean, then it is my mission today to convince you to seek out this elusive packet of leguminous deliciousness.

While many folks profess to like beans, they fail to see what inspires my unbridled passion for these little packets of complex-carbohydrate goodness.  After all, the American bean vocabulary tends to be pretty limited: we know garbanzos, kidneys, black beans and cannelinis.  Occasionally we dabble in pintos or black-eyed peas.  But unless it comes in a can, most of us can’t be bothered to expand our bean horizons.

If ever there was a bean to inspire a nation to abandon its lazybean tendencies, however, surely the Gigante (aka: Gigande, Yigante, Hija) must be it. Most popular in Greek cuisine (yes, the same clever people who brought us geometry and democracy have also retained this most delicious of beans in their collective leguminous repertoire), gigante beans boast a divine creamy texture and the ability to maintain their shape after all sorts of cooking.  I decided it was time to start making my own gigantes after the $9.99/lb Antipasto bar at Whole Foods lured me in one time too many with that ridiculously delicious Gigante Bean salad of theirs.  (What kind of person spends $18.98 on an impulse bean purchase?!)  Like all bean varieties, Gigantes are an excellent source of complex carbohydrate, protein, fiber, antioxidants and a good source of iron.

Buying Beans

My new favorite place to buy beans is Purcell Mountain Farms, an Idaho-based farm with an excellent online store.  In addition to having the most reasonable prices for my favorite hard-to-find Gigante beans and Beluga lentils, they offer a surprising variety of organic and heirloom bean varieties with romantic names and fashionable appearances.  

If you are a bean buff and are interested in learning more about the folklore behind the wide, wonderful world of beans–as well as how to prepare them–I strongly recommend Aliza Green’s essential cookbook, Beans, from which I learned, for example, that Gigante beans are a variety of so-called “runner beans” that were brought to America from Greece and Spain.

Cooking beans from scratch

While I resisted it for years, I have come to discover that cooking beans from dry isn’t nearly as annoying as I had thought it would be. If you have the foresight to plan ahead, tomorrow night’s dinner beans into a big bowl of water in a ratio of about 3 cups water per 1 cup beans before you go to bed is the easiest way to prep your beans for a faster cooking time the next day.  And if you’re as Type A as I am, the feeling of accomplishment that comes with multi-tasking overnight will lull you into a happy, albeit geeky, slumber.   This would be the regular soaking method.

The quick-soaking method takes about an hour to an hour and a half.  In this case, you’d put your beans in a large saucepan so that they’re covered with 2 inches of water.  Bring the water to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes.  Then, turn off the heat, cover the pan, and let your beans soak in the water for 60-90 minutes, until tender.  Drain the water and proceed with your recipe.

The #1 rule when cooking any dry bean is to avoid adding acid of any kind with the bean until it is already tender.  Don’t add any vinegar, wine, citrus juice, tomato product or anything else acidic to the cooking water until your beans are nice and soft; otherwise, the acid will prevent your beans from softening no matter how long you cook them.

Gigante Beans: Two Ways

Yigandes Plaki: Loosely translates to "Why, oh why, was I not born to a Greek grandmother?"

Yigandes Plaki: Loosely translates to "Why, oh why, was I not born to a Greek grandmother?"

I am obsessed with this first recipe for Greek-style Baked Gigante Beans, (aka Yigandes Plaki) which was adapted from Nancy Harmon Jenkins’  The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook and posted on another food blog.  (Better they should have to deal with the copyright issues than me!)  While I’ll admit that it took forever and a half to make, I happen to live in a freezing old house and am all for any recipe that involves keeping the oven on for long periods of time.  (If you pre-soak your beans overnight, the first 40-50 minute bean simmering step can be cut in half.)  It strikes me that this recipe would be perfectly suited for a slow-cooker, but since I have yet to figure out how to use the slow-cooker I got for my wedding, I will defer to any ambitious crock-pot enthusiasts out there to adapt this recipe on our behalf.)  Since I didn’t have fresh herbs, I used a bunch of dry ones (including basil and oregano), which resulted in a final product that, in addition to being mouth-meltingly creamy, gave a similar flavor effect to lasagna…in the best possible way.  In fact, I would recommend serving it like you would lasagna; accompanied by a nice garlicky side dish of broccoli rabe or sauteed bitter greens to counteract the sweetness and bring some green to the plate.  It is absolutely delicious.  If your children don’t like this recipe, then send them back for a refund.

Another easy way to serve gigantes is as a room temperature bean salad appetizer.  Gigantes are commonly featured among the mezze in Greece, and a salad is a perfect way to pay homage to this civilized bean.  Mark Bittman offers an easy-to-follow formula for a Greek-style gigante bean salad in his modern kitchen staple, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

Of course, to replicate the Whole Foods Antipasto version that I’m so addicted to, here’s the closest recipe approximation I could come up with, reconstructed from the posted ingredient list on their salad bar signage:

Tamara’s Whole Foods Gigante Bean Salad Knockoff

Directions:

  1. Cook 1/2 lb of gigante beans per the cooking instructions above
  2. Roast 1 small red pepper and 1 small green pepper over open flame (your gas burner will do just fine).  Peel their skins off and slice peppers into super-thin strips.
  3. Mix cooked beans with 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 2 TBSP olive oil, 1 TBSP fresh chopped parsley, 1/2 cup (or more, to taste) or roasted pepper strips, 1-2 minced garlic cloves and salt to taste.
  4. Let salad marinate in fridge for several hours so flavors can blend.
  5.  Serve at room temperature.

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Roasted Maitake Mushrooms
 
(image T. Freuman)

(image T. Freuman)

I’ll be the first to confess that elaborate mushrooms scare me a bit. The otherworldliness of enokis, the meatiness of King Trumpet stalks, the sponge-like texture of Lion’s Manes.

But I’ve been served Hen of the Woods enough at high-end restaurants to know that something delicious would await me if I could just bring myself to push past the awkwardness of our first face-to-face kitchen encounter. So I did. And I’m glad.

If the name Hen of the Woods doesn’t sound familiar, perhaps you’ve encountered this mushroom elsewhere under its Japanese name, Maitake? Maitakes get a lot of good press for their high antioxidant content, and they’ve even shown promise as a food with cancer-preventive potential.

We’re going to skate past the question of “why” to roast Hen of the Woods mushrooms, because the answer is quite obvious. In short:

  • They’re a delicious umami bomb
  • They make mundane foods like polenta, plain pasta, mashed potatoes or burgers extremely fancy
  • They’re insanely nutritious and are a part of your balanced, inflammation-taming, disease-preventing diet
  • You’re getting sick of roasting cauliflower

Now: Hen of the Woods mushrooms grow in a log-like cluster (below, top) that can be a bit intimidating. But once you approach the cluster with a knife, you can cut off little florets that have such a strong resemblance to cauliflower, that you’ll feel comfortable in no time (below, bottom).  As you take apart the mass of mushrooms into smaller florets, use your finger or a paper towel to dust off any little clusters of dirt embedded among the stalks.

 

 

Once you have the mushroom cluster cut down into florets, the rest is a cinch. Toss the florets in olive oil to lightly coat and sprinkle with salt. Arrange on a parchment paper lined baking tray. Roast in a 425 degree oven. Check on them after 10 minutes; smaller pieces may already be crisp on the edges. Remove these from the tray and put the tray back in the oven for another 3-5 minutes to get the larger pieces a little bit crispier. Remove from oven and serve!

Turkey Quinoa Burgers
 
Turkey Quinoa Burgers  (image T. Freuman)

Turkey Quinoa Burgers (image T. Freuman)

I hope this uncharacteristic recipe post for a turkey burger doesn’t turn off too many of my most dedicated vegetarian readers.  I personally follow a Mediterranean diet, which means lots of beans, whole grains and veggies, but also some poultry and fish.  I do feed my kids meat more regularly than I eat it myself, mostly because I've got an aspiring fruitarian son who teeters on the verge of anemia all the time, and I’m constantly obsessing about whether he's getting enough iron.

Not surprisingly, my latest experiment was to create a high-iron burger that was moist and delicious enough for the kids to accept, but healthy enough for the adults in the family as well. For the latter reason, I chose turkey instead of beef, though red meat does have more iron than turkey.  By using ground dark meat turkey and adding iron-rich quinoa as a binding agent, I thought I could compensate for some of the difference, while sparing us all the extra saturated fat.  (Oh goodness.. reading this out loud I just realized that Turkey-Quinoa burgers are exactly the kind of thing people imagine nutritionists feed their kids, aren’t they?  When did I become such a stereotype…?

Turkey-Quinoa Burgers

Makes 4 burgers

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup grated zucchini (or substitute 1/2-3/4 cup well-chopped spinach)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce (can substitute Dijon mustard if you avoid fish)
  • 1 lb ground turkey (preferably dark meat/thighs)
  • Kosher Salt

Directions:

  1. Cook quinoa according to package directions in a very small saucepan.  You may need to add a bit of extra water to account for evaporation since the quantity is so small.  Note that 1/4 cup dry yields about 1 cup cooked.
  2. Meanwhile, while quinoa is cooking, saute the shallots and garlic in olive oil for 1-2 minutes until starting to sweat.  Add the zucchini (or spinach) and continue to saute for 2 minutes more until veggies are soft and sweating.  Remove from heat.
  3. Combine ground turkey, cooked quinoa, worcestershire sauce and sauteed veggies in a mixing bowl.  Add a generous pinch of kosher salt.  Mix with hands until well-blended.
  4. Form mixture into 4 patties of equal size.
  5. Grill burgers on a preheated grill until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.  (About 10 minutes on an outdoor grill, flipped halfway through; 7-8 minutes on an indoor sandwich press grill, such as the Cuisinart Griddler, set at “high”)

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Bella’s Stuffed Grape Leaves
 

I never much cared for stuffed grape leaves (or dolmas, as they’re known in Greek) until I tasted my mother-in-law’s version.  While I always found other grape leaves to be too briny or bitter or mushy or flavorless, Bella’s are taut little rolls of flavorful, textured rice filling wrapped in a leaf that’s been soaked to remove the tangy briny residue, and marinated in a heavenly lemon-juice-olive oil-garlic sauce until they soak up its Mediterranean deliciousness. 

From the moment I first tasted one, I knew I had to have the recipe.

As soon as I asked for it, everyone just smiled at me pityingly.

Bella is a wonderful, self-taught, instinctive cook who has never used a recipe in her life.  Even when she owned her own cafe, and made authentic grape leaves, hummus and tabbouleh all from scratch, she still never used recipes.  I asked her how she managed to replicate her recipe each time, she replied that she just knows how its supposed to look.

Still undaunted, I decided to invite her over and have her give me a grapeleaf tutorial.  My plan was to write down the ingredients and quantities in a veritable public service effort to liberate the glorious recipe from her head and share it with the grape-leaf deprived masses.  I will preface the rest of this posting by admitting that I was only quasi-successful in my mission: I kinda-sorta pinned her down to a recipe whose quantities will fill a 9×13 baking dish stacked with 2 layers of tightly-packed stuffed leaves, about 80 total.

Please forgive the loosey-goosey nature of the pseudo-recipe below.  Believe me when I say it is a veritable coup that I even managed to wrangle this out of her.  To compensate for the shortcomings, I provided some photos so that you can see what things are supposed to look like at different stages, which is Bella’s preferred gauge.  And of course, taste as you go and feel free to improvise.

Bella’s Stuffed Grape Leaves

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz of jarred grape leaves

For the filling:

  • 3 cups uncooked white rice
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa or millet
  • 1 cup pine nuts or sunflower seeds, toasted
  • *approximately* 1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped (or, a bunch of peppermint tea bags opened up, contents added to the rice until it looks like the photo below.  Sorry… I told you this was only a pseudo-recipe.)
  • Dried parsley, maybe about 2 TBSP?  Can be substituted for fresh parsley or freshly chopped chives, too.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.  Spicy Hungarian paprika to taste, optional.

For the marinade:

  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 bulb garlic, crushed
  • A handful of fresh mint, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Soak the jarred grape leaves in a big mixing bowl full of cold water to remove the brine.  Dump water and repeat 2-3 times until the leaves don’t taste salty or feel slimy from the brine.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Cook the rice and quinoa separately per package instructions.  (~4.5 cups water for the rice and 2 cups water for the quinoa).
  4. Meanwhile, while rice is cooking and leaves are soaking, toast the pine nuts or sunflower seeds in a dry saute pan or toaster oven, just until golden/fragrant.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked rice, cooked quinoa, pine nuts/sunflower seeds, mint and parsley.  Season to taste, making sure the mixture is salted enough that it would taste good if you were to eat it as a side dish.  It should look like this (See Step 5 below):
  6. Meanwhile, make the marinade.  Combine lemon juice, olive oil, crushed garlic and chopped mint into a small bowl, and season with salt and pepper.  The marinade will be very strong– garlicky and tangy.  That’s what you want.
  7. Using your now-drained but still wet grape leaves, lay one grape leaf flat on your working surface.  If it has tears or holes in it, place a smaller leaf on top of it to patch it up.
  8. Spoon a small amount of rice filling onto the base of the leaf and use your fingers to pinch the rice into a more compact row.  See Step 8 below.
  9. Begin wrapping the grape leaf from the base, pulling the leaf base tightly over your rice mound.  Fold in the sides like a burrito and finish rolling.  The final product should be tight and compact.  Place the stuffed grape leaf into your baking dish, and pack them in tightly together, with the end flap down, as you continue to roll more.  When the bottom of the dish is full but before you start stacking the second layer, drizzle half of the marinade on top of the stuffed leaves. See Step 9 below.
  10. Continue rolling and stack a second layer on top until the baking dish is full. Drizzle the second half of the marinade onto the top of the second layer of grape leaves. See Step 10 below.
  11. Now, fill the baking dish with some water until it’s ~3/4 up the sides of the dish.  (I know it sounds weird, but it will help cook the grape leaves through and will boil off in the oven.)  Cover with aluminum foil and cook for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and cook for another 30 minutes, until the water boils away.  The top layer of grape leaves will be a little dried and brown, but shouldn’t be burnt. The bottom layer will be softer, but more saturated with flavor.  

Bella’s grape leaves taste best on the second day once they’ve been soaking in their delicious marinade overnight and after being reheated in the oven until warmed through.  (Or, microwaved in a pinch).  Even better, pour some more lemon juice and olive oil on the grape leaves before re-heating.  

Now, if I could just get her to give up her hummus recipe…

Zucchini Halloumi Napoleon
 
Zucchini Halloumi Napoleon  (image T. Freuman)

Zucchini Halloumi Napoleon (image T. Freuman)

If ever there was an homage to everything summer– grilled dinners, fresh mint and zucchini from the garden, simple, unfussy recipes– this lovely appetizer would be it.

This savory Napoleon recipe was inspired by summertime Caprese salads using fresh basil from the garden and sweet Heirloom tomatoes from the Farmer’s Market.  It’s a grilled version that combines some of my favorite ingredients– garden mint, salty Halloumi cheese, and globe-shaped summer squash.

What’s that?  You’re not familiar with halloumi?  Well, allow me to introduce you.  It’s a salty sheep and goat’s milk cheese with a firm, slightly rubbery texture, originally from Cypress.  I find it more pleasant than feta–with all due respect to the Greeks– as it’s less sharp and tangy.  Halloumi’s claim to fame–and what makes it a perfect summer cheese– is that it holds its texture when grilled.  In other words, it will soften and get grill marks like a slab of tofu, but won’t melt all over your grill.  Like other salty white cheese, halloumi is divine when paired with watermelon and mint in a salad as well.

Now, back to our Napoleon.  You can make this warm layered appetizer as I’ve written it, or you can improvise by adding additional layers of grilled tomato or eggplant.  Use round, globe-shaped ones for visual appeal if they’re available.  This will take your Napoleon into ratatouille territory, without all the fuss of sauteing.  If you can’t find globe zucchini, then use the biggest, fattest zucchini you can find and cut it lengthwise into four thick slabs, then halve each large slab.  Use two pieces each per later.  To turn this appy into a meal, serve it atop a bed of well-seasoned quinoa and lightly steamed spinach.

Grilled Zucchini-Halloumi Napoleon

Serves 4 as an appetizer

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium/large globe zucchini, sliced into 4-5 rounds of equal thickness
  • 1 8oz block of halloumi cheese, sliced into 4 rectangular slabs of equal thickness
  • 6-8 large fresh mint leaves (~1 TBSP chiffonaded)
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar (preferably a thick, syrupy one)
(image T. Freuman)

(image T. Freuman)

Directions:

  1. Heat grill to medium (a countertop panini grill will work fine, too)
  2. While grill is heating, chiffonade the mint leaves.  (Stack them up, roll them into a log lengthwise, and slice into skinny strips horizontally.)
  3. Brush zucchini slices generously with olive oil on both sides.  (You do not need to season with salt; the halloumi is salty enough to flavor the dish.)
  4. Grill zucchini on both sizes until its tender and brown grill marks have formed; just a few short minutes.  Remove slices as they’re ready and set aside.
  5. While zucchini is grilling, brush halloumi slices with thin layer of olive oil to prevent sticking
  6. Place halloumi on the grill and cook until brown grill marks develop and cheese softens, just a few short minutes
  7. When both components are ready, assemble the napolean as follows: Zucchini later, halloumi layer, sprinkle of mint.  Repeat layers until all ingredients are used up.
  8. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar to taste.  Cut into 4 sections and serve!

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Avocado Tacos
 
Avocado Taco (image T. Freuman)

Avocado Taco (image T. Freuman)

If “taco night” takes your mind to a greasy place of fried tortilla shells stuffed with a generic combo of sloppy refried beans, ground beef, lettuce, shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream, then you’ve been missing out on the taco renaissance currently underway in major cities nationwide.

Soft tacos with fresh, flavorful and inventive fillings are the name of the game, and there’s no ground beef, refried beans or cheddar in sight.  While my heart belongs to the taco menu at Cascabel Taqueria (and their fabulous Luchador salad on the side), sometimes a girl needs a good, filling vegetarian taco option as well.  And this, as it turns out, is easier said than found.

I stumbled across the perfect vegetarian taco to satisfy my spicy craving in a nauseous haze during my first trimester of pregnancy, when the very thought of meat made my stomach churn: the Aguacate taco at La Esquina.

The taco was a delightfully overstuffed affair starring a gorgeous green hunk of avocado accompanied by a scrambled egg, nestled in a doubled-up soft corn tortilla and accessorized with black beans, citrusy salsa verde, pico de gallo and a crumble of white queso fresco.  (That’s a lot of taco to fit into a 6″ wrap… and a deal for just $3!)  When drizzled with my favorite hot sauce, El Yucateco, I was in taco heaven.

I recently decided it was high time to make my own version of this divine taco creation, staying true to the original concept but swapping out the pico de gallo for some gorgeous pink pickled onions… they’re so easy to make and they have a transformative effect on a workaday taco.  If you happen to have a grill going, I’d suggest grilling the avocado to take this recipe from divine to sublime, though the original version used raw avocado and was still perfectly delicious. Instructions on how to grill an avocado follow below.

Avocado tacos

(Makes 1 taco; multiply as needed)

Ingredients:

  • 2 soft corn tortillas
  • 1/3 fresh, ripe avocado
  • 1 egg, scrambled and fried
  • 1 heaping tablespoon canned black beans
  • Salt

Garnish:

  • Pickled onions (see recipe below)
  • Salsa verde (storebought)
  • Cotija cheese (aka, aged Mexican white cheese; or use other crumbly white cheese as available)
  • Fresh lime wedges

Directions:

  1. Sprinkle avocado with pinch of salt (alternate prep: grill avocado halves instead of serving raw.  See note below for directions on how.)
  2. Warm corn tortillas one by one in a frying pan over medium (no oil) until soft; stash warmed tortillas stacked on a plate covered by a kitchen towel to keep warm and soft until ready to serve.
  3. Double up corn tortillas and fill each duo with beans, egg and avocado (in that order).
  4. Drizzle salsa verde to taste.
  5. Top with pickled onions to taste.
  6. Sprinkle cotija cheese to taste.
  7. Squeeze a lime wedge over the fillings.
  8. Serve with your favorite hot sauce as desired.

To grill avocados: Slice avocado in half lengthwise and remove pit.  Brush with olive oil and lime juice.  Grill flesh side down on a hot grill until pretty grill marks appear, about 5-7 minutes.

Pickled onions

(Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen cookbook)

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium red onion, sliced very thin
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and ribs removed, and sliced into thin rings
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Combine jalapenos, vinegar, sugar and salt in a small saucepan and heat until sugar dissolves.
  2. Pour mixture over sliced onions in a heat-resistant bowl; stir to ensure onion slices are covered
  3. Cover bowl and let steep for 30 minutes.
  4. After 30 minutes, pour off the liquid and discard.
  5. Store extra pickled onions in a sealed container in fridge for up to a week.

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Timbale (Eggplant-encased Spaghetti Pie)
 
Timbale (Eggplant-encased Spaghetti Pie)  (image T. Freuman)

Timbale (Eggplant-encased Spaghetti Pie) (image T. Freuman)

Late summer to early fall is high season for eggplant, and if you’ve hit a farmer’s market during that time, no doubt you’ve noticed the abundant and regal assortment of jewel-toned eggplants on offer.

I like a ratatouille as much as the next girl, but somehow my mind always goes blank when faced with gorgeous piles of deep purple eggplants, and I wind up passing it over in favor of more familiar summer produce.  But since my husband took a week-long Italian cooking class and brought home this show-stopping recipe for Timbale– a highly-impressive pasta “cake” wrapped in sliced baked eggplant–we’ve been seeking out the biggest, most beautiful eggplants summer has to offer with a very specific plan in mind.

Throw the Kitchen Sink in your Timable

Timbale, named for its drum-like appearance, scratches the same flavor itch as, say, eggplant parmesan, without all of the breadcrumbs and extra oil.  It’s always stuffed with pasta (gluten-free works perfectly well), sauce and cheese, but beyond that, the variations are endless. You can keep your Timable vegetarian, embellishing your filling with anything from a modest bit of frozen peas and fresh basil to a pile of cooked spinach and thinly-sliced zucchini, or you can add your favorite variety of ground meat (ground turkey would be the healthiest option here) if that tickles your fancy.  So long as you:

  • use a springform pan
  • make sure to include the pasta, sauce and cheese to help glue the insides together
  • allow adequate time for the Timbale “rest” after coming out of the oven to enable the insides to firm up…

…your Timable will be excellent.

Admittedly, Timbale is not an everyday dish given the labor and time that goes into it.  But if you’ve got extra hands in the kitchen over Labor Day weekend, its a fun group project, and the results are pretty impressive.

Eggplant Timbale

Serves 10-12 as a side dish

Note: the recipe below is offered as a baseline only.  As discussed above, feel free to swap vegetable and/or meat ingredients in and out to your liking, so long as you keep the pasta, sauce and cheese in there.  Prep is not difficult, but it is multi-step, so be sure to allow adequate time both to prepare the ingredients, to bake the Timbale, and to allow it ample opportunity to cool after baking.  It is worth the wait, and your family, Facebook friends and Instagram followers will be very impressed with the outcome.

Ingredients:

  • One 10″ springform pan
  • Cornmeal (for dusting pan)
  • 3 medium-sized eggplants (about 1.5 lbs)
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 TBSPs extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing on eggplant and oiling
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/8 cup fresh basil leaves
  • OPTIONAL: 1/4 lb ground turkey (note: can substitute with vegetarian fillings, such as diced mushrooms, chopped spinach or julienned zucchini, and play around with quantities to your preferences)
  • 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes (can use fresh tomatoes in season and puree them in lieu of canned)
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 2 TBSPs sweet Marsala wine
  • 1 lb penne or similarly-shaped pasta (e.g., fusilli, rotini or spirals), cooked and well-drained.  You can absolutely use whole wheat pasta.  For gluten free, use gluten-free brown rice pasta.
  • 1 lb part-skim mozzarella, diced and dried on paper towels if necessary
  • 1.5 cups grated Romano cheese
  • Optional: additional marinara sauce to serve

Directions:

  1. First, slice 3 thin (1/4″ thick) rounds each off the fat end of two of the eggplants for a total of about 6 rounds.  Then slice remaining eggplants lengthwise into 1/4″ slices.  Sprinkle with salt, place in colander, and let moisture drain for 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  3. Rinse eggplant slices and pat dry.  Lightly oil a sheet pan (or a few, as needed) with some olive oil, and place eggplant slices on it.  Brush the eggplant slices(side facing up only) with olive oil as well and bake until lightly brown (pictured below), about 10-15 minutes.  Cool.
  4. Next, you’ll make your sauce.  If using ground meat and/or alternative vegetables (mushrooms, spinach or zucchini), heat 2 TBSP olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add garlic and basil and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the meat and/or the vegetables, increase heat, and cook until the meat has lost its pink color (about 10 minutes) and/or the veggies are soft and well-cooked and excess water has been cooked off.   Add the crushed tomatoes, season with salt and pepper to taste.  Reduce heat to medium and cook to allow flavors to blend, about 15 minutes.  Add the marsala wine and the peas, cook one minute more just to blend, and remove sauce from heat.
  5. In a large bowl, combine your drained pasta with the sauce, the diced  mozzarella and 1 cup of the grated romano cheese.  Set aside.
  6. Now, to prepare the pan.  Oil a 10″ springform pan with olive oil and dust with cornmeal as pictured below.
  7. Then, line your cornmeal-dusted springform pan with overlapping slices of the baked eggplant as shown in the pictures, allowing the eggplant to drape over the sides of the pan.  (You will use these draping flaps later to seal up the Timbale).  Cover any gaps in the center of the pan with all or part of eggplant slices to ensure the pan is fully lined.
  8. Now, spoon the pasta mixture into the springform pan.  The mixture should fill it all the way to just beyond the top and form a bit of a mound.
  9. Next, fold the draping eggplant flaps over to cover the mound of pasta.
  10. Now, top the Timbale with a few slices of the baked eggplant rounds to seal it completely.  Using your hands, gently compress the Timbale to make sure its nice and packed in there firmly.
  11. Then, sprinkle the top with some remaining grated Romano cheese and put the whole thing in the oven for 35-40 minutes, until the cheeses are melted.
  12. Remove from oven and let sit to cool IN THE SPRINGFORM PAN for 45 minutes to an hour.
  13. Once Timbale has cooled, place pan on a serving plate/platter and unmold from the Springform pan. Voila!  Are your guests impressed yet?
  14. If you wish to re-heat before serving (optional; the dish tastes great at room temperature), gently replace the springform mold over the top of the dish and warm in oven at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes.  To serve, slice the Timbale like a cake and serve in wedges with extra marinara sauce on the side.
Iddiyappam
 

Iddiyappam (image T. Freuman)

I'm a part-time dietitian married to a schoolteacher, and we've got twin children. In other words, we don't get to take exotic vacations.  So, I decided to create a faux getaway by visiting Newark Avenue near Journal Square in Jersey City, a veritable slice of India right in my own backyard.  Granted, it’s not the most picturesque of neighborhoods.  But it boasts a half dozen “cash and carry” markets where the offering of vegetables, herbs, beans and pantry items capture the imagination… and inspire me to cook dishes that make my house smell wholly unfamiliar.  The perfect cure for cabin fever.

I scored a bag full of goodies to fuel a week’s worth of cooking experiments, but the fresh bag of curry leaves I bought for a mere $0.50 turned out to be the magic ingredient I needed to transform a pantry of mundane, workaday foods into Iddiyappam: a bright, unusual accompaniment to the aromatic lentil dal (stew) my husband was working on for dinner.

 

Curry leaves bear no relation to the spice we know as curry powder.  (In fact, curry powder isn’t actually a spice so much as a blend of multiple spices that vary by brand.)  Curry leaves are narrow, edible, green leaves grown on (what else?) curry trees–also known as Kari trees– and are sold fresh on the branch.  They smell nothing like curry the spice, nor do they taste anything like curry the spice.  To me, they smell a little bit nutty, but others describe the aroma as bell-pepperish or citrusy.  To unlock their distinctive flavor, you just fry them in some oil; this process unlocks their alchemistic ability to transform a dish beyond the mere sum of its parts.  (If you’ve ever fried sage leaves, you’ll understand what I’m talking about here.)  I don’t recommend leaving them out of a dish that calls for them.

If you are lucky enough to live near an Indian market–or a specialty grocery that carries fresh curry leaves (you may seem them sold as “meetha neem” or “kadhi patta”)–buy them. Alternatively, if you love Indian food and live in a temperate climate– California comes to mind– why not consider planting yourself a curry leaf plant? The species name is Murraya Koenigii, and you can order one online from a variety of sources.  According to Carol Selva Rajah, the Sydney-based co-author of The Food of India (Murdoch Books, 2002), her outdoor curry plants have grown to over six feet tall (!) in sunny Sydney.  (However, you can grow more modestly-sized plants potted indoors).  Just think of all the great produce you could barter with your neighbors with that many curry leaves!  Note that dried leaves have nowhere near the flavor or aroma as fresh leaves, so if you find some fresh ones, it’s best to freeze any extras for a rainy day and thaw them when needed.

So once you’ve scored yourself some leaves, you can try frying them in a bit of oil before starting your favorite curry recipe (especially fish) and then proceed as usual; they’ll add a surprising bit of depth and complexity. You can use them as a garnish to mulligatawny (or any lentil) soup, as Carol suggests.   Or you can use them to try out the Iddiyapam recipe that brightened up my dreary weekend; it’s a Southern Indian rice noodle based dish that makes an interesting substitute for plain old rice alongside a more strongly-flavored sauce or stew.  With Carol’s permission, I offer you her recipe–adapted only to reduce the oil slightly for my calorie-conscious readers.  (I assure you, it’s no worse for it.)  I recommend getting a big pot of water boiling at the outset and cooking the eggs while the rice noodles are busy soaking.  After 10 minutes, scoop the eggs out with a slotted spoon and keep the boiling water going for the rice noodles.

Iddiyappam

Adapted ever so slightly and reprinted with permission from Carol Selva Rajah

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz rice vermicelli (look for these in the Asian section of any supermarket)
  • 2 TBSP oil
  • 1/3 cup cashew nuts
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 2 leeks, finely shredded
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2 TBSP ketchup
  • 1 TBSP soy sauce (to make it gluten-free, use wheat-free Tamari sauce instead)
  • 1 tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Soak the rice vermicelli in cold water for 30 minutes
  2. Meanwhile, get a pot of water boiling and cook the eggs for 10 minutes to hard boil, the remove with a slotted spoon and cool in cold water.  When cold, peel them and cut into wedges.
  3. Drain vermicelli and put them in the pot of boiling water.  Remove from the heat and leave in the pan for 3 minutes.  Drain and rinse in cold water.
  4. Heat 1 TBSP oil in a non-stick frying pan and fry the cashews until golden.  (Note: don’t be tempted to toast them without oil to save calories; frying them in oil results in a ridiculously delicious effect)
  5. Remove cashews from pan, add the onion to pan, fry until dark golden, then remove from pan and set aside.
  6. Heat the remaining 1 TBSP oil in the frying pan and briefly fry the curry leaves.  Add the carrot, leeks and red pepper and stir for 1 minute.  Add the ketchup, soy sauce/tamari , salt and vermicelli, stirring constantly to prevent the noodles from sticking to pan.
  7. Serve on a platter and garnish with the peas, cashews, fried onion and egg slices.

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Shakshouka
 
Shakshouka  (image T. Freuman)

Shakshouka (image T. Freuman)

Oh, shakshouka. Your beauty is surpassed only by your deliciousness.

It’s the kind of word that invites an exclamation point, doesn’t it?

I first tasted shakshouka as a college student studying abroad in Israel. It’s a brunchy, tomato-and-pepper based egg dish that was contributed to mainstream Israeli cuisine courtesy of the Moroccan Jewish community. (Strangely, though, I’ve visited Morocco twice now and have never actually come across shakshouka there…) Over the years, I’ve made it too many times to count, and always to rave reviews. It’s a vegetable dish that’s sloppy and savory and hearty enough to appeal to the meat-loving, salad-eschewing set… and a sneaky way to get in a solid 1-2 servings of vegetables before noon. It’s also really versatile: you can serve it alone; along with toast; wrapped in a crepe or tortilla, or as I’ve seen them serve it in Israel: stuffed in a pita lined with hummus. Sound weird? Don’t knock it till you try it.

Leftovers can be heated up to make a very respectable weekday dinner, served as suggested above, or as the main filling of a burrito that you enhance with some beans and cheese. But there won't be any leftovers.

Tamara's Shakshouka

Ingredients:

  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped 
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or thinly sliced
  • 2 large bell peppers (mix red, orange or yellow for visual appeal), very thinly sliced into pieces roughly 3-4" in length
  • 2 large handfuls baby spinach leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp ground cumin, or more to taste
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • A dash of ground cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes (can use crushed tomatoes as well but it will take longer for the liquid to cook off)
  • 6 large eggs
  • Optional garnishes: feta cheese, fresh cilantro

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until nice and hot. Add onions and saute until they are soft and somewhat translucent, but not browning (3-4 minutes).
  2. Add garlic and continue to saute for another minute. Add the sliced peppers and stir so that the vegetables are nice and mixed up. (Note: if your large peppers yielded really long strips, feel free to cut them in half so they are more reasonably-sized for a mouthful.)
  3. Add the cumin, coriander, cayenne (if desired), salt and pepper. Continue to saute until peppers start to soften.
  4. Add the spinach and the tomatoes with all of their juice and stir so that all ingredients are mixed well in the pan. Once the tomato liquid starts bubbling, use your spatula to carve out six ‘holes’ in the bubbling vegetable mixture.
  5. Crack an egg into each hole. (If you’re cooking for someone who’s runny-yolk phobic, you may crack your eggs into a separate bowl, whisk them, and then pour them into the holes instead. If you’re avoiding egg yolks for any reason, you can put 2 egg whites or their equivalent in liquid eggwhites into the holes.)
  6. Keep the mixture simmering until the eggs are well-cooked and the yolks are semi-hard. (As the eggs start to set, if need be, scrape aside some of the gooey egg white from atop the hardening yolks so that it gets a chance to cook, too…) The liquid will start to cook off, leaving you with a firm ‘stew’ that you will be able to cut into messy pieces–sort of like a lasagna. When you get to this point, use your spatula to cut the shakshouka into six pieces, each of which should have an egg in it. Serve on toast.