Carol hosted our family dinner on the Sunday of Saint Patrick’s Day. The day is always cause for celebration because Irish roots in our family are deep. Carol’s husband’s family boasts an Irish surname and all of them have Irish first names. Everyone is a strong (And I do mean strong) alum of Notre Dame. The patriarch insists on speaking Gaelic whenever he has the opportunity. He often delivers Gaelic prayers at family gatherings. On the other hand, Susan’s family also has a strong Irish background, but I think most of them wear orange underwear. There is a rule that Irish politics are never discussed at family dinners, but the food is always Irish in origin. Carol made an elaborate dinner including shepherd’s pie (with lamb, of course), corned beef, and boiled new potatoes along with rice pudding. There were two loaves of Irish soda bread which disappeared straight away. Things started off with a cheese plate containing several Irish cheeses and a wedge of Welsh Cheddar. That served to mollify the odd man out – me – who has Welsh and German origins. I am pleased to report that in a blind tasting, the Welsh Cheddar won out over an Irish Cheddar. After the dinner, Carol sent us home with leftovers including the corned beef and boiled new potatoes.
Susan says that her favorite use of corned beef is in sandwiches, so of course our first meal was corned beef sandwiches. But we still had enough meat left over that we came up with another dinner. Corned beef hash is obvious and also a good way to use the boiled potatoes. I chopped up the corned beef and potatoes, along with an onion and fried them up like any good hash with the plan to top it with eggs. Somehow, though, it looked monochromatic. Ketchup is my usual condiment of choice, but this hash needed more. So I mixed up an impromptu tomato sauce and layered it between the eggs before I popped it in the oven. The result was sort of a combination hash and shakshuka, but whatever, it made a good leftovers meal.
On the plate
Corned Beef Hash Shakshuka Style
- 6 ounces (more or less) corned beef
- 2 cups (more or less) boiled new potatoes
- 1 large onion
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 small can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
- 4 cremini mushrooms, sliced
- ¼ cup manzanilla salad olives, chopped coarsely
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- salt and pepper
- 4 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning herb mixture
- Chop the beef, potatoes, and onion coarsely. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the beef, potatoes, and onion. Sauté until the potatoes begin to crisp and the onion is wilted and tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a greased 8 x 8 inch glass baking pan, leveling the hash. Form four deep indentations in the mixture using a serving spoon. Set aside until ready to assemble.
- In a small bowl, combine the tomato sauce, mushrooms, olives, garlic and ginger. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
- When ready to assemble, sprinkle one-fourth of the grated mozzarella into each of the four indentations in the hash. Break an egg into each of the indentations. Pour the sauce onto the hash around the eggs. Sprinkle the herb mixture over the entire dish.
- Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 350°F for about 15 minutes until the whites of the eggs are set and the yolks are still runny. (As you can see, I left them in the oven a little too long) Watch carefully and remove from the oven when the eggs are cooked to your liking. Serve immediately.
One of my favorite stalls at the farmers market is run by two young women who always have friendly greetings and interesting offerings. They have bunches of several varieties of basil along with many other herbs. Earlier in the season they had garlic scapes, fava beans, and a wide variety of Asian vegetables. They have bins and bins of tomatoes. But they also have an amazing selection of eggplants: not just the big purple tear drops that my grandmother grew but also white, variegated, Japanese, Italian, long, and green varieties. On my last visit I found eggplants that I had never seen. They were labeled as “Indian”, but their distinctive characteristic was that they were only about the size of a hen’s egg. They looked so cute that I bought them, although I wasn’t sure what I would do with them. You could stuff them with shrimp, Cajun-style, for individual servings. You could make an eggplant tapenade, but that would subvert the whole idea of miniature vegetables. I guess you could steam them and serve them by themselves. Of course, if you think of eggplant you think of ratatouille, so I bought some tomatoes, squash, peppers and onions as well.
I have long thought of ratatouille as a dish that is delicious but labor-intensive. That’s because the first time I ever prepared it years ago I followed Julia Child’s recipe exactly. Each vegetable was cooked separately and slowly to maintain its shape and color before combining with all of the other ingredients and then simmered gently to meld the flavors. In short, Julia’s version is not a dish that you start when you get home from work. The mystique has even been amplified by the wonderful Disney Pixar film, Ratatouille. In the movie, the signature dish prepared by the rat was an elaborate layering of slices of eggplant, squash, tomato and pepper. Beautiful to behold. And if you go to the web these days there are several versions of the recipe that use a similar artful arrangement of vegetables. Again, not something you would whip together before the evening news.
I think of a farm family sitting at their dinner table in Provence. I suspect they enjoy a good ratatouille but I doubt that it is in delicate layers. For that matter, a good shakshuka in Israel or bibimbap (add some beef and rice) in Korea may employ the same or similar ingredients without a lot of fanfare in their preparation. In other words, ratatouille should be easy to make and still be wonderfully delicious. This recipe just tosses the vegetables together, uses mushrooms, and adds a poached egg – definitely not authentic ratatouille, but a good way to use miniature Indian eggplants.
Salted zucchini rounds
Vegetable mix ready for braising
Not Exactly Ratatouille with poached eggs
Not Exactly Ratatouille
- 6 small Indian eggplants
- 2 small zucchini
- Kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 small white onions
- 6 medium mushrooms
- 4 small ripe tomatoes (about 4-5 inches in diameter), halved
- 1 large green bell pepper, seeded and slice into ¼ inch thick rings
- 1 small can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
- ½ cup dry white wine (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon ground thyme to taste
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 eggs, poached
- Trim the tops of the eggplants and slice them in half lengthwise. Do not peel. Slice zucchini in ¾ inch rounds. Sprinkle the cut vegetables generously with Kosher salt and place in a large sieve over a bowl for 30 minutes to draw out water, Blot dry with paper towels. Over a high flame, grill the vegetables for a few minutes until lightly browned with grill marks (if desired). Remove from the grill and set aside until ready for assembly.
- Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or lidded oven-proof vessel over medium heat. Add the grilled eggplant and zucchini along with the onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, green pepper, tomato sauce, wine and seasonings.
- Cover the Dutch oven and transfer to the middle of an oven preheated to 300°F. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the vegetables are fragrant and tender. If there is too much liquid, remove the cover during the last 15 minutes of cooking to reduce. Adjust the seasoning and serve, topped with 2 poached eggs for each serving.
With winter here, squash and root vegetables are at their zenith in the kitchen. Butternut squash is one of the favorites, and it’s a favorite of mine, too. At the same time, preparations can get a little bit boring. Butternut squash soup is on many menus, roasted squash cubes appear on the internet, and mashed squash, sautéed squash, and candied squash are all in abundance. We had a squash consigned to the vegetable drawer while we were out of town. Even though squash seems to keep forever, this one really needed to be eaten. I tried to think of something a little novel. The hollow in the base of the butternut just seems to beg to be stuffed with something, but what? I thought of tomatoes and then baked eggs. Why not combine them all? That sounded like shakshuka, although what I finally came up with is definitely not shakshuka even though it uses similar flavorings and food combinations. My final dish turned out to be tasty, and it used up that butternut squash.
Butternut Squash Shakshuka
- 1 medium butternut squash
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 Roma tomato, diced
- ¼ cup chopped green bell pepper
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 large eggs
- salt and pepper
- Greek yogurt
- Wash, dry, and split the squash lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and membranes from the cavities. Place 1 tablespoon of butter in each of the cavities. Arrange the squash halves on a baking sheet and place in the middle of an oven preheated to 375°F. When the butter has melted, about 5 minutes, brush some of it on the squash flesh. Continue to bake for 30-40 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the tomato, bell pepper, tomato paste, garlic, and cumin. Cook for a few minutes until the vegetables are wilted and the juices have been released. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Test the squash for doneness with a kitchen fork. When the flesh is soft and easily pierced, remove from the oven. Partly fill each of the squash cavities with the tomato mixture, leaving enough room for the eggs.
- Top each of the cavities with an egg and return to the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the egg whites have set and the yolk is still runny. Watch carefully at this point to make sure the egg does not overcook.
- Remove from the oven, season with salt and pepper, and transfer to individual serving dishes.
- Spoon on 1 or 2 tablespoons of yogurt and serve immediately while still hot.