Monday, January 19, 2015

Happy New Year! and Why I Love Trader Joe's

Hello loyal reader!  It's a new year and new things have been happening here in the not-so-deep South.  But first, a message from our sponsor, lol...

Trader Joe's: Fine Purveyor of Stuff to Make an Impromptu Moroccan Meal

So yesterday, Dawn and I went grocery shopping and I found something really interesting.  Now I'm usually pretty good about abstaining from the dreaded, ¨Things I don't need but really, REALLY want¨ category.  I've passed the Roasted Nut Oil Trio on numerous occasions, and no matter how much I dream of a roasted beet with mandarin orange segments, and fennel salad with a drizzle of pistachio oil, or how lovely it would be to have a hazelnut-imbued roasted butternut squash, I persist in sighing deeply, closing my eyes, and walking quickly away. $14.99 is an insane price for 25.5 ounces of specialty oils, but it's too much for me to spend on oil.  I mean, really, it's oil.   But yesterday, I could no longer resist.  Next to the aforementioned oil trio, I discovered a set of four spice blends.

Now normally, I can easily resist spice blends.  The spice cabinet in my kitchen is actually a spice ARMOIRE, and there's a crapload of spices from all corners of the earth.  If I need herbs de Provence, barbecue rub, pumpkin pie spice, or any other spice blend, I mix it up myself.  You see, I am a total control freak.  I like my sweet spice mix to have a shitload of ginger in it, and some cardamom to round out the flavors.  I like my gingerbread spice to have black pepper to add a bit of heat to the warmth of the spices already present.  I like my herbs de Provence to have a noticeable amount of lavender, since I love cooking with flowers.  Which brings me to how I ended up with four Trader Joe's spice blends in my cart.


The draw was sumac.  I have been looking for an affordable source of sumac for years, and while I always keep an eagle-eye out for a stand of staghorn sumac pointing up from the bleak landscape, the opportunity to pick the berries off of said sumac stand has consistently eluded me.  So, when I saw a whole container of sumac in a spice quartet for $6.99, I had to take a closer look.  Having already put my requisite tub o' hummus in my cart (plain so I can personalize it), after reading the label of the Zhoug blend about how to sprinkle on tahini with olive oil, I felt I could immediately put it to work.  But the final deciding factor was the Ras el Hanout.  It has all my favorite sweet spices, with some heat and interestingly, spearmint.  But the last straw was drawn at the last ingredient:  Rose Petals.  For years I've been touting the pleasure of cooking with flowers and people are catching on at last.  Flower liqueurs are mainstream, and Trader Joe's has not one spice blend with flowers, but now two!  OMG!  (The other is the Flower Pepper grinder which I love to use on eggs and salads.)  Clearly, it was a sign from God.

This morning, I stared at the spices on the counter.  I need sustenance, and since it's my day off, I decided to put some effort into breakfast.  Yesterday when Googling Ras el Hanout, (no not R'as al Ghul, I know who he is;  the husbeast would divorce me citing irreconcilable differences if I didn't, lol), there were some recipes for Moroccan eggs or Shakshuka.  Basically, I've been making this for years, but with the wrong spices :D

It's very similar to Huevos Rancheros-pretty much eggs poached in salsa.  The recipes all had Ras el Hanout in them, and Harissa.  Now unfortunately, I don't have any harissa on hand.  While it is completely probable I have ingredients on hand to make it (I'm looking at you Pasilla and Ancho chiles from my last bout with mole), I was famished, and soaking dried chiles to make a condiment when I had Ajvar and Sriracha in the fridge was a no go.  So here's how I made my Shakshuka:


Trader Joe's Shakshuka

Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Diced Onions
Minced Garlic
Can of Fire-Roasted Tomatoes with Chiles
Roasted Red Pepper Spread with Eggplant and Garlic
Sriracha Sauce
Ras el Hanout
2 Eggs
Olive Tapenade
Pink Himalayan salt

Saute the onions and garlic in a cast iron pan.  Add the tomatoes and red pepper spread (ajvar).  Squirt some sriracha on top.  Add the Ras el Hanout.  Mix.  Make a well with your spoon and crack eggs into the well.  Cover pan with a lid and cook on low until egg whites are cooked.   Salt eggs.  Put a spoonful of tapenade in the ugly crater made by slightly overcooking eggs.  Sprinkle with parsley and sumac.  Serve in skillet.

What else can I say but it was delicious.  The recipe makes enough ¨salsa¨ for two, so I used a large pan to make it and a small pan to cook the eggs and serve in.  That means I have more for tomorrow!  Yay!  Thank you TJ.  I never thought you could get even better.


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