15 April 2012

tea eggs

i got it into my head to make a batch of tea eggs. carl tried them a few years ago. the idea and the process appealed to me, but the result was underwhelming. i saw a stunning photo of some online, and decided to give it a try. as usual when i decide to make something, i look through my own collection of cookbooks, and then do an online search, pick the best looking recipe, and then tweak it to my own preferences. this one was a combination of madhur jaffrey's and this one. I had some chinese five spice, so i used that, but i skipped the star anise (not a favorite of mine) and did not cook the eggs for as long as recommended. also, i had no chinese black tea, so i just used what i could round up from my tea stash.

the process includes hard boiling the eggs, then cracking the shells all over, but keeping them on the egg. then you mix up this tea/soy sauce/spice brew, and steep the eggs in that for a number of hours, so that the dark sauce penetrates through the cracks, leaving a web like pattern on the egg.

this dish is a feast for the eyes. the most dramatic pattern appears on the inside of the shell, which, of course, gets peeled off before serving, but the peeled eggs also look lovely. the taste on the egg is rather subtle, but nice. i arranged them in a beautiful dish (made by my friend libby), took them to a neighborhood potluck, and everyone seemed to enjoy them. photographing them was my favorite part.

01 January 2012

peas in the new year

i've heard it's traditional to have peas on new year's day, for good luck and prosperity. black-eyed peas are what we have chosen in the past. but this year we went with chickpeas. the dish is called leblebi (took me about a week to pronounce it without getting tongue-tied). Deborah Madison says it's common tunisian breakfast food. we thought leblebi on new year's day would be a nice way to celebrate the arab spring of 2011, and to offer best wishes to all those struggling for a better life in 2012.

it starts with a simple preparation of chickpeas in a thin, garlicky broth (this can be made in advance). serve it over day old farm bread with the following condiments: chopped scallions, sliced hard-boiled egg, capers, pickled turnips and most importantly, harissa.

harissa is a beautiful thick sauce, deep red in color, and rich in flavor. the caraway seed sets it apart from other chili pastes. harissa is added to the chickpeas as they cook, but to make the peas more acceptable to kids or others who dislike spicy foods, you can go easy on it at that stage, and just serve plenty at the table for those who like it hot. our bread was homemade, as was the harissa (it is one of carl's specialties) and the pickles came from friends who farm turnips.

leblebi is fun to eat, a pleasure to look at, distinctive and memorable in flavor.
happy new year!