Shakshuka – A Love Story

So the wife & I were staying at the SoHo Grand in New York one random time.
We went out for a breakfast/brunch with no specific destination in mind, except that we wanted to walk around, explore and end up at somewhere dope.
That can be a pretty rough way to find a spot, but in NY it’s one of, if not the best.
We stopped by a few ‘regular’ looking brunch spots
a couple hipster spots
a mexican spot my college roommate/BFF recommended.
Nothing looked ‘perfect’
An hour into this jaunt we were getting a little hungry (and snippy)
We were at the point where it’s like ‘if there’s a fucking Applebee’s around the corner, I’m fucking going. You can come in with me or not, I literally do not care.”
Lo and behold, we stumble upon a spot called 12 Chairs Cafe.
‘This looks cute,” my wife said.
(‘this looks cute’ is basically her code for ‘we’re going here’)
I’m like, “hmm humm oh umm let me look at the menu”
She walks right in and grabs a table
two of the 12 chairs, if you will.
There was one other couple there, it was a weekday.
The server comes up, welcomes us, tells us it’s Mediterranean
kebobs, hummus, lamb, “no seriously the best hummus”
and i was kinda like, “man i love this food but i really felt like a brunch type thing”
the server must have read my mind, literally says
“have you ever tried Shakshuka”
“umm, no.”
he explains that it’s tomatoes cooked down to spicy, sauce, with two egg cracked on top, which actually poach within the dish
i was like, “hmmm, sounds interesting but”
“it’s our speciality. it’s an Israeli speciality.”
i was like “let’s do it”
He comes out in a cast iron skillet with two perfectly orange egg yolks on top, cracked into this paprika-infused, bubbling tomato medley with an Israeli salad and pita on the side.
I abso freaking lutely fell in love with the dish.
photo courtesy of
Amazing. I still haven’t tried to make it, and i don’t know why, really
as i get it nearly every time i see it on a menu – breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner
ultimately my point is,
I saw this Eater piece today
and was like ‘Reseda, eh. . .Aroma Cafe, eh. . .let’s do it!!!!’

Magnolia Gardens: Winter, 2016

My winter planting started in November. Initially, it was radish and cilantro that would ‘test’ my soil – freshly turned with E.B. Stone Organic Planting Mix as well as their ‘Sure Start’ Fertilizer. The drought ravaged my garden throughout the summer, and the impending El Niño was a prime time to revitalize the earth in and around Magnolia Gardens. I figured I’d get a head start.

Radish grows and harvests rather easily, so within four-five weeks we pulled up a few dozen and enjoyed the veggies of our labor. The cilantro was a bit spottier, as we really only had about three bunches that grew proudly. As the calendar turned to 2016, it was time to get serious about a plan: I would focus on what pass for ‘winter’ vegetables in Southern California, and despite the threat of El Niño being more firm than the actual El Niño, we had enough rain to really produce a bounty for the winter harvest.

Here are some of my favorite photos from this past weekend:

a single pea pod amongst tendrils
a gaggle of pea pods
 budding broccoli
basil, surviving the ‘harsh’ winterc
elery stalks shooting up
fine harvest of peas
russian kale
blood orange blossom
 arugula blossom
broccoli flowernavel orange blossom
navel orange blossom

Looking forward to Spring, when we can start to get some serious color and variety in the garden, kitchen and on our plates.

Elegant, Easy Peas-y White Fish

I was at STK the other night and ordered their striped white bass, which was served with a pea purée and chorizo. The dish itself was pretty underwhelming (sorry, STK – I still love your steak!) but the presentation was beautiful and the inspiration was pretty obvious: it is prime pea season at Magnolia Gardens:

I love peas. I didn’t used to love peas. In fact, the only peas I liked was the pea soup at Pea Soup Anderson’s in Buellton. But that was because I’d never tried fresh peas. Like, really fresh peas. They were a revelation – this was the first item I’d grown in my garden that had a transformative taste – it was a reason to plow ahead with Magnolia Gardens and discover the world of veggies & plants that were bursting with flavor & freshness.

So yeah, I tried to recreate the dish – and hopefully make it better. I think I did. Try it yourself, I hope you enjoy.


  • 1.5 lb. wild caught and 1/2″ thick Cod or Halibut
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 whole shallots, sliced
  • 3 cups peas (frozen is fine)
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. EVOO
  • 1 cup fresh-shucked peas
  • 3 tbsp. mustard seeds, crushed or ground
  • 3 slices bacon, broken into crumbles
  • 1/2 bell pepper, diced
  • fennel or dill to taste
  • salt & pepper, to taste

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  • spread ground mustard, salt & pepper on the fish
  • heat 2 tbps of butter over medium heat, add shallots and caramelizing for five minutes
  • add frozen peas + 1 cup of water and salt and pepper, and cover partially; cook until sauce is reduced, 7-9 minutes
  • puree peas, 2 tbsp of butter, salt and pepper in a food processor; transfer to a pot and keep warm over low heat
  • heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish and sear/sautée. Flip once until golden brown, about 4 minutes on first side, 2-3 on second
  • divide pea purée, and top with fish; spoon over sauce and garnish with dill, bacon, bell peppers and serve
  • Yum!



Hummus in a Snap

Inspired by this dreamily creamy Hummus recipe from Food & Wine from Michael Solomonov in Philadelphia’s Zahav restaurant – as well as my exponentially growing love for hummus – I decided to make my own from scratch.

I’ve tried tahini + canned garbanzos previously and it was good, but this straight-forward recipe looked like something I could tackle; and knowing that ‘from scratch’ is better than the alternative in 99.1% of instances, I wanted to give it a whirl. In my patented, “two minutes or less” Snapchat video style, you’ll see my attempt – which tasted divine, but was not true to form; I added the tahini up front instead of in two different applications.

I’m making this on a consistent basis moving forward; the most difficult actual ‘work’ comes from taking the hummus out of the processor, so the upgrade in flavor and texture – plus customizability – really makes this an immediate addition to the recipe portfolio.


  • 1 lb. Dry chickpeas
  • 7 cloves garlic
  • 1 lemon, juice
  • 1/2 cup of tahini
  • ice water
  • 1/2 cup, EVOO
  • 1 teaspoon, cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp, baking soda
  • parsley & paprika, for garnish


  • soak chickpeas in large bowl, covered in two inches of water, for 8-10 hours, with 1 tsp baking soda
  • drain chickpeas and add unpeeled garlic cloves, covering in water. simmer over low/medium heat for 40 minutes.
  • drain, rinse under cold water, peel the garlic.
  • puree the chickpeas with 1/2 cup of water, 1/4 cup of the olive oil and the garlic, preferably mashed into paste with mortar & pestle.
  • crush cumin seeds as well, adding that along with lemon juice and 1/2 of tahini. transfer to a bowl with a rubber spatula.
  • add the remaining tahini & EVOO, plus a bit of water and one more generous squeeze of of lemon juice and puree.
  • physically mix all of this together in bowl, garnish with whole chickpeas, parsley  paprika and a shake of cumin.
  • serve with pita bread and do your best to save some for your guests.


Family Favorite: Stuffed Zucchini

Earlier this summer, my wife sent me this Pin from Buzzfeed extolling the virtues of ‘Quick Dinners to Make This Week.’ I’m not a huge fan of stuffed bell peppers, and I’d never tried stuffed zucchini so I was not very excited. It looked good, but I was sort of like ‘meh.’

That said, “Happy Wife Happy Life” is probably the best advice I’ve ever received so I figured – sure, why not? Turns out that it was an AWESOME decision, and this recipe has made its way to our table regularly for the last few months, and has even turned into a favorite to prepare for guests.

Inspired by this recipe at Katrina Runs for Food, it really is easy – dare I say, fun? – fairly quick and awesomely fulfilling & delicious. I snapped a quick video and uploaded it to youtube, and the recipe itself is below. Hope you enjoy – I know your family will.


  • 4 large zucchini, sliced lengthwise and middle scooped out with melon baller and saved for later in the recipe.
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup chopped red/yellow/green peppers in any combination
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • heavy hand of cumin
  • pinch of cayenne
  • heavy hand ancho chili powder, or regular chili powder if ancho is not available
  • generous shake of garlic powder
  • generous salt & pepper
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar
  • 1/2 cup of mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup of parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 3 green onions, sliced thin


  • Sautee beef, peppers, onions until beef is browning
  • add the middle part of the zucchini that was scooped out.
  • Add seasonings. Stir and simmer a few minutes until flavors are ingrained.
  • In a large bowl, add beef mixture, cheddar, mascarpone, parsley. Mix well.
  • Spoon mixture into each zucchini boat.
  • Bake 400°F for 30 minutes.
  • Remove, sprinkle mozzarella cheese and return to oven for 4-5 minutes.
  • Top with green onions and serve.

Simple Pasta Sunday – Anchovy Goodness

I say Anchovy, you say Bleccch.

That’s just how it goes, and it’s unfortunate. I fully understand – my first experience with the feeder fish came on pizza, sort of as a dare, and all I remember is that its flavor enveloped (and ruined) the entire pie. It wasn’t until I lived in Seattle and had the Cauliflower Anchovy spread at Lola that I began to realize the potential of this boldly-favored, powerful little fish.

Encountering them again in Italy and at Italian restaurants in the states, served either on crusty bread, or solo, usually with parsley, served to further grow my respect for the fish, and their umami-packed flavor. And realizing that anchovies form the base of the traditional Caesar salad dressing proves that anchovies are a flavor-enhancement more than anything, and truly worthy of a Yessss rather than a Bleccch.

In this recipe, inspired by the wonderful handmade linguine I encountered at the Studio City Farmers Market this weekend, I hope to show that anchovies are not only accessible, but a crucial part of a dish that is simple, delicious, and perfect for a summer afternoon – even for a two-year old.

I’ve condensed the video (thank you Snapchat) I hope you enjoy.


  • linguine, 8-12 oz.
  • EVOO
  • garlic, 4 cloves, slivered
  • anchovies, 6-8 filets
  • spinach, two handfuls
  • fresh parmesano reggiano
  • lemon, juice of one half, reserving other half


  • boil a huge pot of water, adding a ton of salt. The water should taste like ocean.
  • heat a large pan to medium, adding a healthy amount of EVOO, until the oil is glistening.
  • add the garlic, and once that starts to crisp (but not brown), add the anchovy and mash until its a paste.
  • put the pasta in the boiling water and cook as per directions (generally two minutes for handmade, 8-12 for store bought).
  • add spinach to the pan and stir until wilted, coating with the anchovy/garlic mixture.
  • once pasta is cooked properly, add it directly from pot into the pan, stirring until each noodle is coated. there is no need to drain prior to doing this, the excess water helps thin out the mixture and makes more for a saucy approach.
  • I like to add a healthy squeeze of lemon at this point, and again prior to serving.
  • grate parmesan on top, serve, and picture yourself looking out on to the Adriatic Sea.

Tortilla Española

Inspired by Omar Allibhoy, I recreated one of my favorite all-time dishes with this Tortilla Española. I first encountered the dish as a naïve, hungover, food-deprived 21-year old in Madrid. After successive nights of ecstatic partying, our gracious hosts prepared what looked to be a ‘puffy omelet.’ At the time, I was kind of agnostic about eggs – take ’em or leave ’em – and prepared to be satiated with a few simple bites. What happened next, even in my slumberious haze, was nothing short of a revelation. Was this cheesy? Was this buttery? What is this creamy texture that somehow holds tight, and oozes deliciousness over every tastebud?

Turns out, this was a simple fortification of potatoes, onions, eggs, salt, pepper & EVOO. And that’s IT.

One of the simplest recipes I’ve made, but takes concentration and is definitely an ‘active’ recipe. But absolutely worth it – breakfast, brunch, dinner. Amazing food here.


  • Four fist-sized waxy potatoes
  • One yellow onion
  • 7 eggs
  • glugs upon glugs of EVOO
  • salt & pepper to taste


  • pour oil, realistically 3/4 of a cup, in to a wide, non-stick skillet. heat on high.
  • quarter the onion, then slice it. once pan is heated, add to pan.
  • while onions are heating, and they need time to caramelize & brown, half then slice the potatoes.
  • once onions have nice color, add potatoes to the pan and mix actively for the next 15 minutes, or until potatoes have great color as well.
  • while potatoes are frying, crack eggs in a large bowl and whisk with salt and pepper
  • after potatoes & onions have browned, turn off stove and drain excess oil (strain & save it – can be reused about five times and has a great subtle flavor)
  • place potato/onion mixture into the eggs and let stiffen for about five minutes.
  • put skillet on stove and heat to medium – add mixture
  • heat for four-five minutes, moving subtly the entire time
  • place a large plate on the top of the skillet, press down firmly and flip. this is easier than it sounds, but still pretty harrowing.
  • slide the now-forming tortilla onto the skillet again, and heat other side for four-five minutes, again shaking subtly.
  • slide off onto plate, let cool for five minutes and slice.
  • i like to add crisp greenery and an acidic element (tomatoes) as well as an herb (parsley), but you can literally make this as sweet or savory as you’d like.
  • enjoy.


tortespa             tortespañ