It’s a good thing I have a well-stocked spice rack and an adventurous palate, because I can’t go anywhere right now. For now, and probably for the summer, I am tethered to the lab. I make daily visits to collect data, and I stretch my experiment-running into Saturday morning so I can squeak just a little more data into my week. This schedule can be exhausting, and it often is, but I’m trying to be positive about it. To borrow Kate’s phrase, I’m just doing it because it’s what needs to be done. To keep my sanity, I’m looking forward to two trips in the fall, one to Michigan and one to San Antonio. It’s going to be a long summer, certainly, but there are leafy trees and cool Midwestern breezes at the end.
I am happier with my adjusted morning schedule, especially on a day like today. I went to the lab this morning, collected my data, and after lunch, I spent another hour or two working. Now, I’m done with my work for the day, and I’m free to enjoy my Sunday. I’m also free to continue cleaning the apartment because Matt is coming to visit on Friday, and I always use his impending presence as an excuse to tidy up the place. I like how my home itself feels ready to welcome him, especially when there are birthday packages wrapped in colorful stripes and a card with his name on it sitting on my coffee table. Walt Whitman said it best: “And when I thought how my dear friend my lover was on his way coming, O then I was happy.”
Until then, though, there are meals to be eaten! The absence of my special gentleman is no excuse to go hungry. After all, I must keep up my strength. On Saturday, after a morning of lab work and grocery-shopping, I tucked into a lunch of leftover Chakchouka, or what was at least a reasonable approximation of Chakchouka: eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce. I love this dish, but the truth is that I think of it less as a recipe and more as a technique: eggs cooked in a well-seasoned bath of tomatoes and other vegetables. Onions and garlic are a must, and though I’d usually say that cumin is too, this time I went with basil and coriander, which turned out to be a lovely variation.
I ate my sort-of Chakchouka with cucumbers and some pepper jack cheese, and I washed it all down with a mug of coffee, which was a terrific pick-me-up. Between the eggs and the coffee, it felt like breakfast for lunch, and eating lunch at home really drove home the point that it was Saturday, thank goodness.
I should say a few more words about Chakchouka because I think it’s a terrifically useful technique to have in your repertoire. Basically, you just need well-seasoned and somewhat saucy tomatoes. I’ve written before about using leftover soup to make a Chakchouka-like dish, and that’s a great way to squeeze another meal or two out of a cup of soup. You heat up your saucy tomatoes in a large pan—I’d recommend something between 10 and 12 inches in diameter—and when things are bubbly, you make a little well in the sauce for each egg. I’d go with 2-4 eggs. Then pop a lid on it and let the eggs poach/braise/cook for 4-6 minutes or until they are cooked to your liking. On my old stove, 6 minutes was perfect, but on my new stove, I had to let the eggs cook for a few minutes longer. You just lift the lid, check the eggs, and continue cooking if needed. Chakchouka is pretty unfussy, as far as cooking goes, and it’s terrific with toast. I forgot to tell you about the toast! I had toast with my lunch on Saturday, so it really was breakfast, in all the best ways.
Chakchouka is also, apparently, unfussy about its own spelling, as I see that other people call it Shakshuka. I’ve been using Moosewood’s spelling, so if it’s wrong, I blame them. Actually, I don’t blame them because it still tastes really good. For those of you who’d like a more precise recipe, check out Jess’s version here or Deb’s version over here. I haven’t tried their recipes, but rarely do either of these women let me down. I can trust my dinner with them. I bet you can too.