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

Winter Soups and Stews

Smoky Butternut Squash and Three Bean Chili

Smoky Butternut Squash and Three Bean Chili

If your house is anything like ours, last week wasn't our most inspired in terms of cooking. We're all suffering from the post-election blues -- the sole upside being Oliver's decision to sleep-in until 7 am for the first time in many, many months; I think he's trying to tell us that pulling the covers over our heads and hibernating for awhile is ok. It's half-convincing. For much of the week, instead of cooking, there'd been takeout pizza and canned soup before, at week's end, I decided it was time to pour a glass of wine and get back into the kitchen. I was craving something hearty and comforting that we could eat for a few days. Something that wouldn't remind me too much of Thanksgiving because, frankly, I can't quite gather the steam to start planning for that yet. It was time for a big bowl of chili.

Read More
5 Tips For Cooking with a Baby + Power Greens Soup

5 Tips For Cooking with a Baby + Power Greens Soup

Last weekend it was so windy – apocalyptically stormy, you could say – that our tent at the farmers market was uprooted by gusts of wind that were not messing around. I wasn't there, but apparently despite being heavily weighted down and with four customers holding onto each corner, it quite literally blew down the block. Sam, from across town, was reporting trees falling on every block and traffic lights out across the city. The next morning on a walk with Oliver around Green Lake, we were met with that same biting wind and ended up retreating for a hot chocolate instead. 'Tis the season in Seattle: we all get a little giddy and ahead of ourselves when we spot the cherry blossoms and daffodils, and I always trick myself into thinking that with the start of daylight savings time,  summer must be right around the corner. In truth, before we had Oliver, we'd often travel somewhere sunny for a little mood boost around this time of year. When I moved from California, many friends – other (empathetic) 'expats' now living in the Pacific Northwest – recommended this: if you know what's good for you, they'd all say, go find the sun in February or March, and we would follow that advice faaaaaithfully. But with a baby, this just isn't where our priorities are this year, and I've found myself relying on other antics like buying out of season strawberries, drinking white wine with dinner, buying a new pair of sandals that likely will not see the light of day for the next two months, and making big, colorful pots of feel good, springy soup. Let's not kid ourselves: Cherry blossoms or not, Seattle's no Palm Springs when it gets down to bathing in the sunlight. But if you step outside onto your little porch, smell the honeysuckle blooming, take notice of the longer, lighter days and think about how you simply can't wait to see your baby crawling around on the sand when it's warm enough to stroll down to the beach, it starts looking better in its own light. 

Read More
Minestrone Verde with White Beans and Pesto

Minestrone Verde with White Beans and Pesto

We returned home from San Francisco on New Years Eve just in time for dinner, and craving greens -- or anything other than baked goods and pizza (ohhhh San Francisco, how I love your bakeries. And citrus. And winter sunshine).  Instead of driving straight home, we stopped at our co-op where I ran in for some arugula, an avocado, a bottle of Prosecco, and for the checkout guys to not-so-subtly mock the outlook of our New Years Eve: rousing party, eh? They looked to be in their mid-twenties and I figured I probably looked ancient to them, sad even. But really, there wasn't much sad (or rousing, to be fair) about our evening: putting Oliver to bed, opening up holiday cards and hanging them in the kitchen, and toasting the New Year with arugula, half a quesadilla and sparkling wine. It wasn't lavish. But it's what we both needed. (Or at least what we had to work with.) Since then, I've been more inspired to cook lots of "real" food versus all of the treats and appetizers and snacks the holidays always bring on. I made Julia Turshen's curried red lentils for the millionth time, a wintry whole grain salad with tuna and fennel, roasted potatoes, and this simple green minestrone that I've taken for lunch this week. Determined to fit as many seasonal vegetables into a bowl as humanly possible, I spooned a colorful pesto on top, as much for the reminder of warmer days to come as for the accent in the soup (and for the enjoyment later of slathering the leftover pesto on crusty bread).

Read More
Simple Cooking: Pasta and Chickpea Soup

Simple Cooking: Pasta and Chickpea Soup

One of the things I wanted to accomplish before really returning to work in earnest was to print some of our honeymoon photos and get them into an album. This project has taken far longer than expected as I find myself daydreaming about the craggy streets of Naples and meeting up with our friends Mataio and Jessica for a late night slice of pizza which we ate sitting on the sidewalk before embarking on an aimless but wonderful stroll of the city. There are photos of our balcony by the sea, most with tanned limbs, sandy sandals and a Campari and soda gracing the periphery of the frame. There was the little grocery store up the hill from our apartment on the Amalfi Coast that had the sweetest, tiniest strawberries and the best yogurt in little glass jars. Tomatoes drying in the sun, Aperol spritzes and salty peanuts before dinner at the bar across from the church square where all the neighborhood kids played kickball. As I sit here typing this now, photos remain scattered on my desk and it's likely they may not make it into the proper slots in the album anytime soon. Of course, they have me dreaming of sunshine and long days with little agenda, but they also have me thinking about the simplicity of our meals in Italy and how truly easy it was to eat well. Coincidentally, a few days ago Rachel Roddy's lusty new cookbook (can we call it lusty?!), My Kitchen in Rome, arrived at our doorstep. Clearly it was time to set the photos aside and get into the kitchen. 

Read More
Returning Home

Returning Home

And suddenly, it's fall. I find that realization always comes not so much with the dates on the calendar as it does the leaves on the ground, the first crank of the heat in the morning, the dusky light on the way home from an evening run. Because we were gone on the train for nearly a week, I feel like fall happened here in Seattle during that very time. I left town eating tomatoes and corn and returned to find squashes and pumpkins in the market. It was that quick. And so, it only seemed fitting that I make this soup, one that has graced the fall table of each and every apartment (and now house) I've ever lived. In fact, I'm surprised that I hadn't yet made it for you here, and delighted to share it with you today. 

Read More