By: Kayla and Justin Butts Photos by: Rachel Benavides
Do you prefer a brunch that is wholesome and hearty or elegant and sophisticated? How about a little of each? These brunch recipes bring the flavors of the Mediterranean to the Coastal Bend with classic dishes from North Africa and France.
Shakshuka is an ancient dish with origins in Libya on the North African coast of the Mediterranean. Shakshuka was adopted in the Middle East and is now one of the most popular dishes in Israel. Libya and Israel are really not so different from the Coastal Bend—similar climate, similar vegetables and herbs, and similar tastes in brunch.
Shakshuka, with its rich colors and deep flavors, is deceptively simple to create. The ingredients are staples of any good farm: eggs, vegetables, herbs, cheese, and spices. The one-pan preparation (use a cast-iron pan or a nice paella dish) moves seamlessly from the stovetop to the table. But simple does not mean plain; this dish resonates with flavor.
With a straight-forward dish like shakshuka, everything depends upon the quality of the ingredients. We harvest our vegetables and herbs directly from our garden (if your tomatoes are not quite ready, try canned San Marzano). We use eggs gathered each morning from our pastured hens. The feta is fresh from Thompson Dairy Farm (available at many HEB locations). Each ingredient is harvested at the peak of flavor.
Mediocre ingredients make mediocre meals. The simpler the preparation, the more keenly this truth is tasted. The secret to unbelievably great shakshuka is to find the best ingredients. Shop at local farmers’ markets, find a friend with a garden or best of all, plant your own. The quality of the ingredients makes all the difference. The results are worth the effort.
To complement the bold flavors of our shakshuka, we traveled to the other side of the Mediterranean for mushroom chevre crêpes. Crêpes are the lightest and most delicate of pancakes, possibly the best thing ever to come out of France.
Unfortunately, many home chefs shy away from crêpes because of their supposed difficulty. Don’t
be intimidated by this brunch classic. When turning your crêpes, take a deep breath and flip them quickly, almost like turning a bedsheet. If the first one or two are not perfect, no worries—your crêpe mistakes are exquisitely delicious and you can keep right on making them!
Crêpes can be sweet-topped, but we went savory because we had this lovely chevre from Thompson’s Diary Farm along with great handfuls of freshly picked herbs from our garden. The availability of ingredients guided our choices.
We here in the Coastal Bend have much in common with the folks in Libya, Israel, and France. We love bold, sophisticated flavors. We love fresh ingredients. We love brunch with friends and family.
Shakshuka and crêpes are the truest of comfort foods. Wherever in the world we are, they bring us home.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1-2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 can whole tomatoes (recommend
organic and/or San Marzano)
8 whole eggs (preferably pastured)
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup parsley or cilantro
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat for three minutes. Add onion and peppers, sautéing for ten minutes. Add garlic and spices, and cook for an additional minute. Stir in the tomatoes, breaking them apart with your spoon. Heat to a simmer, then crack eggs on top of tomato mixture. Sprinkle feta cheese throughout. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, or bake in the oven preheated to 375° until egg whites are opaque (about 10 minutes). Finish with fresh herbs, and serve with warm pita or your favorite crusty bread.
MUSHROOM AND CHEVRE CRÊPES
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Makes 10 crepes
1 cup flour
1⁄2 cup whole milk
1⁄2 cup water
3 tbsp butter, melted, plus 2 tbsp butter
1⁄4 tsp fine salt
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1⁄4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
4 oz chevre
2 tbsp chives
2 tbsp parsley
2 tbsp mint
2 tbsp dill
1⁄2 tsp freshly-cracked black pepper
2 cups arugula
In a large bowl, whisk flour, eggs, milk, water, butter, and salt together until a thin batter is formed. Set aside to rest. In a separate bowl, fold fresh herbs and pepper into the chevre. In a medium pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper, and simmer until cooked down (about 5 minutes). Set aside.
Heat a small pad of butter in a non-stick 12” skillet over medium heat. Ladle 1/3 cup batter into the pan, and swirl around until pan is completely covered with a thin layer. Cook on each side for 1-2 minutes, until lightly golden. Cook the remainder of the batter using the same method.
To assemble the crepes, spread 2 tablespoons chevre/herb mixture on the crepe, place 1⁄4 cup of arugula down the center, and spoon sautéed mushrooms on top.