A Good Haul


When you move someplace new, it’s natural to compare it to the place you’ve just come from. It helps you sort of compartmentalize things and understand them. For example, when I first moved to Boston I’d notice people lining up for ice cream cones in the dead of winter. This was new and kind of odd, but also became one of the things that endeared the city to me. Here in Seattle there are a fair number of differences, too. For example: they do not have citrus at the farmers markets. I’m not sure why this still shocks me (it obviously doesn’t grow here), but it does. People walk a lot. In the Bay Area, getting together with friends usually means meeting at a restaurant, cafe, or a bar. Here, it seems that people meet to walk. I’ve decided I kind of like this. And folks don’t use umbrellas when it rains. I can’t tell you why, but I assure you this is true. The nice thing about moving somewhere new is that these differences eventually become less apparent and just become the new landscape. I know this will happen soon enough. In the meantime, I buy lots of tangerines at the grocery store.


There are small differences that are kind of delighting me, too. Like the way the Goodwill in Seattle seems to have everything you need — and more — each time you visit. When you wonder where to pick something up around town, Goodwill is always the first suggestion; back home, no one I know went to Goodwill unless they were looking for a Halloween costume. In the last two weeks, Sam and I have picked up: 6 champagne flutes, 4 Marie Antoinette glasses, a small framed picture of a red car that Sam is rather fond of, some ball jars, the game Battleship, a small red gumball machine, and a few new records. A good haul.

Much like the way you make mental comparisons to feel more acquainted with a place, you also stock up. Anyone who has moved recently knows what I mean. It seems there’s always something to pick up on the way home, and buying groceries and stocking the pantry just feels good. On Saturday we went to the U-District farmers market and came home with bacon, sausage, a round of cheese, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, and apples. We ambled about, Sam bought a poppyseed bun from the Polish bakery stand, and we shared a Rachel’s Ginger Beer. It was a good haul. Later that day, I went curtain shopping with Rachael and ended up finding very sweet lace curtains at the most unlikely of places: Ikea. We elbowed our way through the weekend crowds and fought the urge to buy a $.99 ice cream cone or a jar of overly-sweet Lingonberry jam. As you do at Ikea. Five packages of curtains and many picture frames later, we were heading back to Seattle proper.  It too was a very good haul.

And now we have a much quieter Sunday. I just got back from a walk with a friend around the lake (yes, that walking thing is no joke!) and Sam’s downstairs painting the basement. I made this Shakshuka for a very late breakfast after we both had had a few cups of coffee and futzed with house projects. If you like tomato-heavy dishes with runny eggs that invite a hunk of crusty bread, you’ll love this recipe. Shakshuka is a staple in Middle Eastern, Moroccan and Israeli cultures; I first had it here in Seattle at a wood-fired bagel shop called Eltana. It’s essentially a tomato, pepper and egg stew that you prepare right on the stove top–the kind of simple dish that, upon first taste, seems like it should’ve been more involved than it really was. I discovered this recipe in the most recent issue of Food and Wine and made some changes to account for taste and circumstance (we were out of harissa, for example).

William Butler Yeats once wrote that happiness is “neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.” While it’s still cold enough to have a little space heater at my feet and don my “sleeping bag jacket” when we walk around the neighborhood, the cherry blossoms are starting to flower and there are little buds pushing up through the backyard soil. Whether you want to call it growth or change, it’s definitely on the horizon. In the air, in the ways I’m learning to balance writing with producing Marge granola, in the people I’m meeting and spending time with, in the way Sam and I actively choose to craft our time. All new, all change, all growth–I think. A good haul doesn’t have to be about physical things like curtains or parsnips; it can be about looking around and nodding in acknowledgement that you are, indeed, doing just fine.

Shakshuka with Fennel and Feta

Shakshuka with Fennel and Feta

  • Yield: 5 servings
  • Prep time: 10 mins
  • Cook time: 28 mins
  • Total time: 38 mins

While it looks like there are a lot of peppers in this recipe, it’s not overly spicy at all. It doesn’t have too much heat. If you don’t have a sweet, smoky paprika at home, use regular paprika instead but know that the smoky variety adds such a nice, rich layer of flavor so you may want to seek it out in the bulk aisle next time you’re at the market. Last, you could very well use goat cheese instead of feta if you’d prefer, and serving this with warm pita bread or, like Eltana does, a half of a bagel would be equally wonderful.

Adapted from: Food and Wine

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 white onion, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 small fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
2 serrano chiles, seeded and chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
1 green pepper, diced
kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, chopped with their liquid
5 large eggs
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Instructions

In a large skillet, heat the oil. Add the onion and fennel and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until softened, 3 minutes. Add both chiles and the bell pepper and season with salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, red chili flakes and paprika and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and their juice and simmer over low heat until the sauce is thickened, 8-10 minutes.

Make 5 little divots in the sauce for the eggs to crack right into. Crack the eggs into the sauce and cover the skillet. Cook over low heat until the whites are firm and the yolks are runny, 6-8 minutes.

To serve: Spoon the sauce and eggs into a bowl and top with parsley and feta. Serve hot with warm crusty bread.

Comments

  1. Julie

    Hi, Megan! It's Julie from Boston and of the Starbucks people. :) We have a Middle Eastern bakery across the street from us, Sofra, that calls to us every. single. morning. We obviously can't afford that so I've been tinkering around in my kitchen trying to match their recipes. I have yet to try making their shakshuka but now I think I will. This looks great!!

    Congrats on your move! I'm really, really happy for you. It looks like life is really great! :)

    1. megang

      Hi Julie! I'm so happy to see your comment here largely because it led me to your beautiful blog. You guys will love the shakshuka...trick is not to overcook the eggs, but other than that, it's a cinch. Thanks so much for saying hello. I hadn't realized you guys moved back to Boston. If I remember, you'd always kind of wanted to, so congrats to you, too. xox; have a great week, ~m

  2. modernworkinggirl

    Boston has the highest per capita consumption of ice cream of all US cities!! Man, I miss that :)

  3. Chez Us

    Sounds like a wonderful time you are having. I would have to say going for walks to catch up would be nice - easier on the pocket book and better on the waistline! Will have to try making this recipe as we are fans of all the ingredients in this dish! L will especially love the runny eggs! xo

    1. megang

      Hi D! Yes, this is kind of in the vein of the Eggs at Boot and Shoe. Sort of -- more tomatoey, obviously, but I think you guys will like it very much. Thinking of you and looking forward to seeing you in April (and catching up much sooner than that). xo

  4. Anna @ the shady pine

    It's funny how many things you pick up about a place without even realising at the time.the walking part sounds good though and a great way to discover new nooks in any city.

  5. la domestique

    I loved reading this post, as my husband and I are moving (just to a new neighborhood). I look forward to the changes- new people, new routines. Also, my husband was born and raised in Ireland and they don't use umbrellas either. :)

  6. Sam @ The Second Lunch

    It's so funny that Julie up there posted about Sofra's Shakshuka - it's what I had yesterday for brunch. (Delicious, of course). Shakshuka is truly one of the world's best comforts.

    1. megang

      Am I late the the game, Sam? You live in Boston now? I knew going back to school was happening but I think I'm far behind on the life and times of Sam. I've got to fix that. I also have many favorite food spots in that city although I'm sure you've found your own just fine. Hope you're staying warm and enjoying it all. ~m

  7. Kasey

    Megan, I just think you should know that reading your blog is like a little break for yoga in the middle of my work day. They totally center me! I love that people get together and walk in Seattle! I actually do that a lot with friends, but I think people always think it's kind of strange, so I'm glad that it's a thing in Seattle. Also, I don't know what I would do without citrus at the farmer's market, but I can assure you that when all those berries flood your market, I will be jealous. Miss you.

  8. tea_austen

    I am happy for the growth and the new home and the walks, and for these pretty pictures that feel like sunshine on a snowy (???) day.

    I'm glad you're here! And that you're happy being here. That most of all.

    We can commiserate about the citrus another time :-)

    1. megang

      I am so happy for the new home, walks, and honest pie advice (we ate that whole pie!) I'm so glad I'm here, too and have a whole slew of citrus on the dining room table anytime you need a fix. Hope you had a great Monday, T. Talk sooooon.

  9. Sara

    You're so right, stocking up the pantry at a new place really does feel good!
    Though some of the best Middle Eastern restaurants I've been to were either in or around Boston, I've never had Shakshuka. It sounds great and I'll definitely be trying this soon!

  10. lisa@havewhiskwilltravel.com

    I have become an expert at moving to a new location and going with the local vibe. Not much of a winter farmer's market in Chicago but great thrift shopping which i learned to appreciate in the consignment stores of SF and perfected in Boston. Chicago drivers honk more than any other city including NYC. And they will walk and bike in any weather including snow!

    1. megang

      You have beat me in the moving camp of late, Lisa...so true. And I love your outlook on it all: you just roll with it. Yes, people walk and run in some major elements here, too. I've started calling myself a "fair weather runner" when Sam asks if I want to go on a run with him and it's looking ominous. Miss you and hope you guys are doing well. Come visit Seattle soon!

  11. Flavors of the Sun

    What an interesting take on shakshouka. I've never tried it with fennel. Looks great.

  12. Mary

    Your moving/new home posts are gorgeous, Megan. Every word. ps. heard you can get Graeter's ice cream there... Is it it really the best?

    1. megang

      Thanks, Mary! Molly told me about a big-box store here in Seattle that carries Graeter's and Sam and I promptly went. Now I can't stop thinking about the coconut chip (you can order it online!)

  13. Emilia

    Great post, you really manage to make adapting to a new location seem like an exciting an adventure, such an inspirational attitude.
    I remember seeing a recipe for shakshuka on a blog once and promptly forgetting which blog. Thus, I've wanted to try it for quite sometime. It looks delicious and warming! Thanks for sharing :)

  14. Rachel

    Goodwill Seattle is wonderful! I've gone there at least once every time I've visited my mom in that lovely city. I love it almost as much as I love melty cheesey earthy dishes with eggs!

  15. sara

    beautifully written. I am so jealous of your move, I truly do love it up there. I am glad to hear you are settling in. Paying attention to these little details is how we most often feel joy. Soak it up.

  16. Let Me Eat Cake

    i would never think to go to Good Will if it weren't Halloween, but I will be sure to check out the Seattle Good Wills :)
    Looking forward to trying this recipe this weekend sounds like the perfect satifying and comforting breakfast!

  17. Staci

    This dish sounds delightful! I love the sassy spices involved. (I may have to take it down a notch for B.) Also, my friend Rachel used to live in Seattle, and when I would visit her we'd always go for walks around the lake. (The lake? A lake? Are there many lakes? Green Lake? Well, anyway, you get my point.) I can't wait to visit you guys and walk and eat. And I'm sending Rachel a link to your site since I think it will allow her to indulge in her nostalgia for that fine city... :)

    1. megang

      Staci! I'm so late to respond! But there certainly is more than one lake. Green Lake is where Sam used to live, but there's also Lake Union, Lake Washington etc. etc. I can't wait for you to visit us, too. We have plenty of space so anytime. Really! Hope all is well with you and B. xox

  18. lori

    Megan, I always seem to read your posts just before bed or when I first wake up and I've decided both are fabulous. Your stories are the perfect way to end or start a day with a smile. Good night.

  19. Bloggy Writer

    Reading your blog brings me more close to food, thanks for this delightful recipe. I get fresh ideas and fall in love with cooking more and more.

  20. Suzanne

    Hi Megan, this made a delicious dinner. I served it with polenta, yum!
    Sending best wishes to you in you new home.

    1. megang

      Hi Don and Suzanne!
      Oh, I'm so glad you enjoyed the recipe. I'm planning on making it again this week -- great idea to serve it with polenta. Hi to Ally! xox

  21. Denise | Chez Danisse

    I love meeting to walk and your tomato, pepper and egg stew looks fabulous. It seems you are doing quite well. Wonderful news.

  22. emmycooks

    I sat down at my computer an hour ago looking for a recipe for tahini cookies and I have been reading your blog ever since. Is 9:45 still a reasonable hour to start baking? After spending a while reading here, I'm pretty sure you'll approve.

    Welcome to Seattle! I am VERY glad that you're here, now that I know to read your blog, because it appears that you will be devising and sharing recipes for my favorite local foods, such as the Columbia City Bakery's cookies and Eltana's shakshuka. (Really, literally, some days I think a bowl of this from Eltana is my favorite food. And have you had THEIR sesame cookies?) Thank you!!

    1. megang

      Oh, I approve! I'm so glad you're enjoying the blog and are finding some recipes you're excited to try. And thank you for the warm welcome. AND NO I haven't tried Eltana's sesame cookies but now they're on my list. Major Eltana craving lately ... must fix that soon!

  23. cynthia

    This is the second Shakshuka recipe/post I have come across in the past month or so. Anything with not-completely-cooked-through-eggs in it has got to be worth a try!

  24. Jennie

    Just discovered your blog. Love your thoughtfulness and attention to the little things. Always wanted to live in Seattle...go to Elliott (two t's or one?) Bay Book Company and Bainbridge Island for me.
    I kinda like to move-I like new beginnings and I like having places to visit that are my "stomping grounds"...I always say I collect friends-wherever I go I find people around me that are good to be around. The best collection I have. Sound like you have one too!

  25. Aly

    Love the look of this dish. It's like a Chinese dish my husband makes of scrambled eggs and tomatoes that break down in a stirfry pan.

  26. Kate

    Thanks for sharing! I had never heard of this before, but sounds delish (love your notes about comparing new places.. I do it all the time!)

  27. Bec

    The things that change from place t place will always surprise me.. but thats the best part isn't it? I am glad you got such a good haul this time round, and I'm all for tomatoes <3
    Bec | www.dancingthroughsunday.com.au

Join the Discussion

Seasonal Selections

Summer in September

Summer in September

My good friend Keena was working in India for the last few months and just returned to Seattle, eager to experience as much Pacific Northwest summer as possible in September. I'm with her on this one: It just so happens that towards the end of this month, the farmers markets I've been doing will also come to an end, so things seem like they're both simultaneously gearing up (hike! picnic! beach!) and wrapping up at the same time as I also feel a sense of wanting to cram in as much as I can before the days start getting noticeably shorter. And truly: there's no better recipe to commemorate such efforts than these fresh corn grits with oil-poached summer tomatoes.

Read More
Yogurt Crepes with Berries and Yogurt Whipped Cream

Yogurt Crepes with Berries and Yogurt Whipped Cream

For many years, I've always made a summer to-do list. I usually set to work on it right at the beginning of June when the days feel long and ripe with possibility. The list often involves things like learning to bake sourdough bread or making homemade ricotta, doing an epic hike I'd read about in a local magazine, training for a marathon, or reading specific novels. It is always a pretty aspirational list, and I generally don't make much of a dent in it -- resulting in the guilty feeling come late August that I'd wasted too many lazy afternoons when I could've been baking sourdough or making ricotta or doing memorable, epic hikes. But this summer is going to be a bit different: there will be no list. We wait so long in Seattle for long stretches of sunny days, and now that it stays late until 9:30 (or later?), I want to see more of our friends and find stretches of time to do not much of anything except catch up, tan our legs and eat farmers market berries. That's my list.

Read More
Sara’s Peach Derby Ice Cream

Sara’s Peach Derby Ice Cream

I received The Sprouted Kitchen Bowl + Spoon cookbook in the mail not long before we moved to our new house, and I remember lying in bed and bookmarking pages I was excited to try but also feeling overwhelmed with where to start: the truth is that this summer has been a relatively low-inspiration / low energy time in the kitchen for me. I'd been chalking it up to pregnancy but when I think back and if I'm honest with myself, my cooking style tends to be very easy and produce-driven during these warmer months. I rarely break out complicated recipes, instead relying on fresh tomatoes and corn or zucchini and homemade pesto to guide me. But last night I cracked open Sara's book and pulled out a few peaches I've had sitting on the counter, fearing their season may be nearing its end. This morning as I was making coffee, I sliced up the peaches, toasted the pecans and churned away -- having a bite (or maybe two) before getting it into the freezer to firm up. 

Read More
Confetti Quinoa Salad

Confetti Quinoa Salad

We just returned from my mom's cabin on Lake George in upstate New York where we often spend the 4th of July. As usual, each bedroom was packed with family members (this year the couch was even occupied for a night), and our days with reading, lounging on the dock, swimming a bit, maybe jogging down the road or playing tennis if you were feeling ambitious. We drank a notable amount of seltzer water; I managed to read three books and my mom threw us a family baby shower complete with balloons, chocolate cake and Mike's rhubarb bars. In previous years, my mom has planned most of the dinners and  even some lunches, but for breakfast we'd all fend for ourselves. I'd often bake a pie or a batch of brownies in the afternoon and everyone would help out where they could, but she would largely do the shopping and brunt of the cooking. This year was different: having just moved from California to Vermont, my mom had a lot on her plate and sent out an email before the holiday weekend asking us all to chip in and help with the meals. Sam and I claimed Friday dinner: we grilled sausages and Sam made his famous deviled eggs. We cut up some unusually seedy watermelon that I found at the co-op in Burlington before we drove out to the lake, and I made a summery quinoa salad that I expected to be kind of epic. The trouble was that it wasn't. I overcooked the quinoa until it was kind of a congealed mush and everything just went downhill from there. But I knew that the idea was strong -- to pack a whole grain salad with all the things of summer (corn! tomatoes! basil!) -- so when we got home to Seattle I tried again. And this time it's a winner.

Read More