the taste space

Egyptian Eggs with Dukkah

Posted in Breakfasts, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on September 3, 2010

I don’t think I have devoured any cookbook this quickly, nor this ferociously.

I borrowed Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean by Ana Sortun from the library and I literally was drooling as I read it from cover-to-cover.  As the title would suggest, it focuses on the spices of the Eastern Mediterranean, based on recipes from Sortun’s restaurant Oleana in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is organized by spice group, as opposed to course or meal. I was stopped cold in the first chapter, all about the three C’s: Cumin, Coriander and Cardamom.

I don’t like curry and still trying to figure out which spice harbours that earthy tone that makes me lose my appetite. For a while I thought it was coriander, so I had been avoiding it. However, Sortun’s description of coriander had me wooed. She described it as bright, citrusy, acidic and perfumey. I knew I had shunned coriander unfairly.

I set off investigating dukkah (DOO-kah, say that just for kicks!), an Egyptian spice mix with nuts. There are countless recipes for dukkah, some with hazelnuts, pistachios, and/or almonds, different proportions of sesame seeds to coriander and cumin, with optional add-ins like mint, lemon zest and chili flakes. My curiosity was piqued by Sortun’s recipe since it included almonds with coconut. I knew I would love the sweetness, so I flexed my forearms, armed and ready with my mortar and pestle.

Once I had roasted the nuts and spices, ground them together, I snuck a quick taste. I wasn’t immediately enamored. I decided to hold judgement until I had finished assembling my meal.

Inside Artichoke to Za’atar by Greg and Lucy Malouf, there was a recipe for deep-fried soft-boiled eggs covered with dukkah and served with a side of toast. They also mentioned that a plain soft-boiled egg could work easily as well. Anyone who knows me well will know that I don’t like to fry my foods, so I was eager to try the easy, soft-boiled eggs with the dukkah. I toasted some bread, topped it with butter, added the egg and smothered it with dukkah. Only then did I listen to my taste buds. By the end, I was licking my plate as I didn’t want to waste any of the dukkah, it was that good.

They were simple sides, a toasted, buttered sourdough bread with a soft-boiled egg, but it made all the difference with the dukkah. Dukkah is a warm, sweet, salty, and slightly earthy spice mix that mixed best with the butter from the bread and the silky egg.

Traditionally, dukkah is served with fresh Turkish bread with olive oil for dipping. Ana paired hers with a carrot puree that I would like to try next time. Dukkah is very versatile, so I look forward to trying it with other meals.

Until then, I will be content to eat eggs and toast with dukkah for any meal of the day. :)


This is my submission to the 11th Mediterranean Cooking Event, featuring Egypt this month.

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Spanish Baked Eggs on a Red Pepper Ragout

Posted in Breakfasts, Favourites by Janet M on August 31, 2010

“An explosion of flavours.” I put that in quotations because my dad said it, completely unprompted, after a bite of these eggs. And this is from someone who usually says things are just “pretty good”, or “needs more spice”. You know how dads can be. ;) He claims he didn’t know I had a blog. Now he is starring in it! ;)

My parents seem to have become the wonderful victims of baked eggs when they come to visit over breakfast. I do make some elaborate breakfasts, but if I make a lot, I want to have tasty leftovers. Baked oatmeal is great for that. Baked eggs, not so much. This is why I break out these recipes when my parents come over.

I made a simple but tasty tomato sauce with poached eggs last time they were over for breakfast, but I keep collecting more recipes to try. Shakshuka, eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce and topped with feta cheese, has been on my hit list for a while, but I can’t bring myself to use pantry items during the summer. Red peppers and tomatoes are at their peak right now and how can I deny their cries?

I am so glad I listened to them, because as my dad put it, this was explosive. It is hard to compare directly with the eggs poached in a tomato sauce, as they vary in their length of preparation and one is purely tomato-based. Personally, I preferred these baked eggs with the flavours from the red peppers, tomatoes, sweet onions and garlic dancing beautifully together with a slightly runny baked egg atop. Due to the long cooking, the red peppers become sweet as if they had been roasted. The tomato and sweet braised onions add a comforting accent. I used ACE Bakery’s multigrain batard, which has a delicious hearty, yet light flavour which complemented the fruity ragout. Topped with the soft baked egg, this was brunch heaven. And it was all healthy. No cream. No butter. Just a few tablespoons of olive oil.

While I made this for a group, the ragout could easily be prepared ahead of time and reheated prior to baking the egg overtop. For those who eat solo, this is perfect. For those who don’t want half an hour of prep in the morning, this is also perfect.

This recipe was barely adapted from The New Spanish Table by Anya von Bremzen. She explained that typically the red pepper ragout, called piperrada, is served with eggs scrambled into it. This way, it is served in individual ramekins, and is a very elegant breakfast, indeed.

Other breakfast egg dishes on my hit list:

Shakshuka from Smitten Kitchen
Tomato and Feta Baked Eggs from Closet Cooking
Baked Eggs with Creamed Spinach from Taste and Tell
Baked Eggs with Spinach and Mushrooms from Gourmet
Baked Eggs Florentine from Oh Taste N See
Eggs in Purgatory from Apricosa
Panera Bread’s Spinach Artichoke Baked Egg Souffle posted by ABC News
Two Ingredient Maple Souffle by Sugarlaws
Cheddar Egg Nests by Sugarlaws

And many more found on this page with 100 ways to use eggs!

I am sending this to PJ for this month’s Healing Foods featuring tomatoes, and to Breakfast Club 5, looking at breakfast with bread.

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Syrian Eggs Scrambled with Rhubarb (Beid Ru’and)

Posted in Breakfasts, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on July 6, 2010

People eat not only with their mouth, but also with their eyes.  If something looks hideous, will it taste any good?  Of course! I have faith in the power of the underdog, but I know that all our senses go into how food tastes. The perfect meal includes fresh, great-tasting ingredients cooked just slightly to let their colour and flavours shine through. This is coupled with the food perched in perfect balance, as the presentation and warm plate go a long way. And, obviously, the most important part of the meal is who you are sharing it with, with the fantastic flutter of your heart, while enjoying your quiet environment and quaint ambiance.

That is the perfect meal and I rarely go all out for the consumption of food. I try to master part 1 and 2, with fresh ingredients and cooking them nicely.  Sometimes I utterly fail in the presentation department and oftentimes I eat in front of my computer by myself (fail, yet again). This brings me to this dish, which I swear is utterly unphotogenic but tastes great.  I think scrambled eggs are hard to photograph on the best of days, but theses light and fluffy eggs are scrambled with allspice, which turns their typical golden yellow an unappealing brown. The rhubarb pierces through, though, as little red jewels. Topped with dried mint, this savoury dish is a feast for the tastebuds, but not a masterpiece for the eyes.

I am hoping the allure of soft rhubarb with the homeliness of allspice within fluffy eggs will entice you to try this lovely Jewish Syrian dish, courtesy of Aromas of Aleppo by Poopa Dweck. The photos are not likely to win me any new friends. :P  Due to its savoury nature, I thought this was great as a vegetarian main, but the scrambled eggs has me screaming breakfast and brunch. Another fabulous cookbook, Olive Trees and Honey, explains this breakfast or lunch meal is typically served alone, with toast or rice, along with Syrian white cheese and apricot jam. Enjoy!

This is the last of my savoury rhubarb recipes (my others were tofu in a zesty rhubarb sauce, a lentil and rhubarb stew with Indian spices and a raw rhubarb, cucumber and mint salad) and I was incredibly surprised at rhubarb’s versatility. I can’t wait for next year’s crop to provide me with more inspiration. This is my submission to this month’s Breakfast Club featuring eggs.

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Eggs Poached in Tomato Sauce

Posted in Breakfasts, Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on June 1, 2010


One of the things I loved about Turkish cuisine was that despite the typically bland names of the dishes, they would be exquisitely delicious. Eggplant in tomato sauce (patlican soslu)? It wasn’t boring at all! It probably only had a few simple ingredients, but it tickled my palate and make me want to eat more. Divine!


While not Turkish, this is one of those incredibly delicious and flavourful meals where simple ingredients make something special. But the name of the dish is completely lackluster and almost puts me to sleep. Eggs poached in tomato sauce? Um, yeah, no thanks…. I am so glad I tried it, though, because it is easy, healthy and delicious. Of course, the reason I tried it was based on its high praise from the Smitten Kitchen, who was inspired from the Martha Show.


I tinkered with Deb’s recipe a bit because I couldn’t find cans of tomato puree and simply chopped up canned whole tomatoes and added in a tablespoon of tomato paste to thicken it a bit. I originally served it as breakfast, and think it is a fabulous meal for brunch. It would also be appropriate for lunch or dinner with a side of vegetables. I certainly won’t complain if I eat this all day.


This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Simona from Briciole.

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Braised Green Cabbage with Onions, Carrots, with a Poached Egg

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Sides by Janet M on May 14, 2010

Allow me to introduce you to the sweetest cabbage you ever did taste, and the sugar comes entirely from the cabbage itself (and perhaps the onions and carrots).  Cabbage is an under-appreciated vegetable but this recipe will change the cabbage haters. Cabbage is surprisingly tasty (especially like this!), but also a good source of vitamin C and fiber. It is relatively cheap (cost and calories) and so filling I usually can’t finish a whole head of cabbage myself. However, this meal was so good, I feel like going out to get another cabbage to make it a second time!

The secret to the uber sweet, melt-in-your-mouth cabbage is the long braising.  I have professed my love of long braises here, which yield delicious meals without much fuss. All you need is a long time to braise, a green cabbage, an onion, carrot, some olive oil, some stock (or water) a sprinkle of chili flakes and salt and pepper to taste.  The result is simply divine.  Here it is paired with a poached egg as a nice, complete meal. As a bonus, this dish is also great the next day as leftovers, although I’d suggest a fresh poached egg. :)

Cabbage is a popular ingredient in Eastern European cooking and braised cabbage is common to many cuisines (sometimes tomatoes are also included). It is mostly a side dish. This is my submission to this month’s AWED featuring dishes from Russia. My liberty was experimenting with braised cabbage, although this specific dish may not be entirely a Russian authenticity.


This recipe was adapted from Orangette, who adapted it from Molly Steven’s recipe in All About Braising.

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The Best Japanese Vegetarian Spring Rolls and Announcing Weekend Herb Blogging #231

Posted in Appetizers, Mains (Vegetarian), Sides by Janet M on April 25, 2010

I love wandering through ethnic grocery stores. There are always fruits and vegetables I don’t recognize. I wonder what they taste like, how to cook them, where they are grown, etc. One of my favourite grocery stores is Bestwin, which I like to describe as a low-cost Asian and Indian grocer. Since I started cooking Japanese, it has been a great way to find affordable Asian ingredients. My goal is actually to try every wacky fruit, vegetable and herb there.

The first one I will tackle is Nira, also known as Chinese chives or Garlic chives. It is in the same family as garlic and is similar to garlic more than chives.  It is sold in big bundles but unfortunately doesn’t keep very long.  It is common in Asian cooking (Chinese, Japanese and Korean) as well as fusion cuisine. Some other recipes with Nira, that I can’t wait to try, include Miso Soup with Nira, Spring Garlic Chive Soup, Yaki Gyoza (Japanese Dumplings), Japanese Iri Doufu (Scrambled Tofu with Nira), Scrambled Eggs with Garlic Chives, Pancakes with Garlic Chives and Ground Pork, Stir-fried Chinese Chives and Pork, Orecchiette with Fresh Mozzarella, Grape Tomatoes, and Garlic Chives, and Pan seared Halibut with Garlic Chives-Ginger-Coconut Sauce.

I recently got together with a friend who shared delicious Japanese spring rolls at a potluck.  It is hard to get excited about spring rolls, but these were special. They were the best spring roll I had ever tasted. I needed to know what went inside those crispy layers, and thankfully she shared it with me. I am not sure what makes them so special, but I think the secret ingredients are the dried shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots and nira which balance out the flavours and bring crunch. Enjoy!

As well, this week I am hosting my first blogging event! I have been a fairly regular contributor to Weekend Herb Blogging, and figured it was about time for me to participate as a host. So here I go with WHB #231! These Japanese spring rolls are my contribution this week.

Weekend Herb Blogging, now hosted by Haalo, is all about sharing information and recipes about any herb, fruit, vegetable, nut, grain, seed, flower or plant. For complete rules, check them out here. Otherwise, send me your name, name of dish, post url, location and photo until Sunday, May 2 at 5pm EST at saveur11 AT yahoo DOT ca.

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