Shakshuka (Eggs Poached in Spicy Harissa Tomato Sauce)

shakshuka

I rushed home from work on Wednesday evening to make this dish. I got to my apartment by 6 PM, and thought I’d have plenty of time to make it and photograph it in natural light. But with the strange cloudy weather and incoming fog, there was barely any light left by the time I started cooking. 

I raced to get this dish on the table. Luckily for me, it took under 15 minutes, start to finish.

shakshuka

Shakshuka is a Middle Eastern dish, with particularly popular twists found in Turkey, North Africa, and Eastern Europe. Traditionally, shakshuka is made of a base of onions, fresh peppers, and tomatoes, stewed and simmered into a sauce. Poached eggs are nestled on top. 

This version is a little simpler to make, and it’s my own take on a much-loved dish. I like the spicy peppery kick of harissa, and the extra depth of flavor from the tomato paste. Green onions replace regular ones for flavor and simplicity– they’re milder, but they also function as both base and garnish. 

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Mini Blueberry Cream Scones

These mini blueberry cream scones are simple, easy, and an instant hit.

Hello August.

Hello birthday. Hello to the last lazy afternoons and plane rides. Hello golden afternoons and ever-so-slightly-earlier sunsets. 

To be perfectly honest, this new month snuck up on me. 

Here I was thinking that summer was just beginning– I had finally learned to take advantage of my weekends and enjoy the season. I learned that I could make it to the pool for an hour after work, or hike in the hills in the afternoon sun. Take a picnic to the local park and enjoy the sunshine and warmth. Have lunch on the lawn. Count on it being light outside until nearly 9 PM. Eat tomatoes and corn and berries for an afternoon snack, because all of the produce is perfectly ripe and sweet this time of year.

And suddenly, it’s August. Back-to-school season, and nearly Fall semester. 

I’m going spend another month or two pretending that summer will never end. 

One thing you should definitely do this month, before berry season is over?

Make these scones. Make these scones, a blackberry pie or two, strawberry shortcakes, and peach-berry-basil cobblers. But begin with these scones.

These mini blueberry cream scones will be an instant hit at brunch!

These tiny cream scones are incredibly easy to make. You just whisk together your dry ingredients, stir in your cream, and add the best blueberries you can find. There’s not much more to it.

And, especially for being one of the simplest things to come out of your oven, these little scones are delightful. Light, tender, just dense enough. Bite-sized. Bursting with berry flavor, the baked and concentrated juice sometimes running down the sides, sticky and sweet. Golden brown on top and just a little crisp around the edges.

Eat these straight out of the oven or on the same day as you bake them for the best texture. If you need to store these overnight, an airtight container at room temperature will do. But if you can? Always go for fresh scones. 

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Banana Chocolate Chip Crumb Cake

This recipe feels strange and out-of-place on my blog in the middle of summer. This recipe does not feel summery at all. It feels like something you bake up in October, when the air turns crisp. Or in December, for an office holiday party. Or maybe in late February, with the first snow melts.  

But there have been summer cold snaps in the East Bay, and I feel like they perfectly justify this banana chocolate crumb cake in the middle of July. The longest day of the year has come and gone, and I feel like this city still hasn’t made up its mind about the weather.

I spent the summer solstice wandering city sidewalks, blocks of shops and houses in full afternoon sun. It was Father’s Day, so I painted a mug at the ceramics studio for my dad. I ran a few errands. I went to the market for fresh produce. Filled my bag with corn, peppers, shallots, lemons, apricots, apples, mangoes, and plums. 

I had dinner at a West Berkeley comida under string lights and a crescent moon. 

It was so hot outside, and the warm weather continued for a week and a half.

Less than a week later, the weather turned cold and foggy. I found myself in the kitchen with a mug of hot chocolate and craving this banana chocolate crumb cake. Sweltering hot days turned into a streak of chilly nights. 

The weather is back to normal over here, blazing hot and constantly sunny… But I’m still eating slices of this cake out of the freezer. 

Here’s how we make it. 

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Challah

Challah | Kitchen in the Hills

Challah has long been one of my favorite breads. I first tried it after baking a loaf with a good friend several years ago. It was soft, springy, eggy, tender, and sweet. 

Challah | Kitchen in the Hills

This loaf is from Kamren Siddiqui’s Hand Made Baking. It’s a little less sweet, and a little more sturdy than your typical loaf of challah. It’s wonderful served plain with butter, but you can also toast it up and top it with an avocado or fried egg.

My current favorite topping is nutella. Can we talk about how freakin’ adorable these mini nutella cups are? 

Also, can we talk about how delightful Kamren’s writing is? I read his book cover-to-cover for the recipe descriptions and stories alone. Kamren effortlessly links food to memories, stories and emotions. You can read some of his writing on his blog, Sophisticated Gourmet. He’s a skilled baker, but he also has a knack for compelling storytelling. Go check it out.

On to the challah!

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Very Good Pancakes

Very Good Pancakes | Kitchen in the Hills

Confession time: I’ve never been good at making pancakes. Pancakes, the quick-and-easy staple of the American kitchen. Almost everyone I know will choose to make their own batch before reaching for a box of Bisquick. But truth be told, I’ve never had more consistent results than with a box of mix. I have tried so many pancake recipes, and very few of them have worked out well for me. (Especially buttermilk pancakes that use baking soda as the sole leavening. Seriously?!)

Very Good Pancakes | Kitchen in the Hills

But pancakes shouldn’t be hard to pull off. 

You shouldn’t have to mix and measure and mix again, dirtying every dish in your kitchen. 

And you definitely shouldn’t have to spend Saturday morning with a plate of too-chewy, too-dense, too-icky-sweet pancakes. Especially not after all that effort. 

I’m a firm believer in pancake simplicity. 

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Homemade Pumpkin Butter

Homemade Pumpkin Butter | Kitchen in the Hills

It’s that time of year again. And I am one of those people that gets way too excited for the holidays.

I’ve been listening to Christmas music on Rdio, and it isn’t even Thanksgiving yet. I’ve started making mental lists of fun winter activities I want to do— the people I want to see, the places I want to visit. I’ve been looking out for the best winter store displays, and wearing flannel and sweaters like they’re going out of style. (This is odd, of course, because I live in Berkeley, California. The weather rarely drops below 55 this time of year.)

Homemade Pumpkin Butter | Kitchen in the Hills

But, of course, it’s too early for holiday cheer. Today we pull back. This is a recipe that feels appropriate in November— it’s a real fall treat. It’s something that you eat as the weather grows colder, but doesn’t quite work once Christmas and New Year roll around.

Unless, of course, you just love pumpkin that much. Nothing wrong with that.

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Mango Citrus + Strawberry Watermelon Smoothies // Changes Are Afoot

watermelon and strawberries in a blender

I made some big changes to my diet recently. I stopped eating dairy. I filled up my meals with fruits and vegetables. I cut down on the starchy, carb-y, flour-based things that used to make up most of my meals. I added some whole grains, and swapped out refined sugars for honey.  I don’t spend any more time cooking than I used to, but I feel so much better. More energetic. Happier, knowing that I’m only putting the very best into my body. These simple changes have made my life a whole lot better. It’s only fair that my blog reflects those changes— from here on out, the recipes featured on here will be fresher, brighter, and lighter. It’s not that there will never be another oozy, gooey, cheesy dish on here, or that the cake recipes will all have to go. I still eat those things on occasion, and I will continue posting them. But the majority of dishes will be the healthier fare that I eat daily.

strawberry watermelon smoothie in a jar

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