I'm back in NYC and gratefully so.
Don't get me wrong - I miss the pool, the hot sun on my back, my feet bleached white with chlorine and toes shriveled into wrinkly little nubs by hours spent soaking in warm, bath temperature water. I miss the 20-somethings in string bikinis taking pictures of each other in sexy poses by the pool and then, switching, so the next girl could make pouty lips and get her sexy picture taken. South Beach was an epidemic of sexy-girl picture taking and a flurry of bikini-clad images being sent over the internet to boyfriends across America.
I miss that there are only 2 kinds of shoes in South Beach: flip flops and 4 inch stiletos. Anything in between and you're going barefoot. I miss free drinks at happy hour. I miss someone coming to clean up our room everyday and never complaining about it, just making our messes tidy as if we had magic fairies assigned to make life more manageable. I miss how the hotel staff was so nice, weirdly nice. Like they were working for tips or something.
I miss Aldo, who always had a smile for me and a mother-sized margarita at the ready. I miss that nice bartender at the roof top pool who slipped me free cocktails because she thought my kids were awesome. And yes, obviously I leveraged my kid's adorability to get free drinks from the bar. I can't help it if we have super powers.
I miss spending all day with my kids and my husband, when he wasn't working, just being us together without the outside world interfering with their demands, neuroses and petitions. I miss floaties and learning to swim and peels of laughter wafting through the air. I miss the sun in my kids hair and how browned they are, like they live on that gorgeous island from the movie "Blue Lagoon", with Brook Shields and that guy who never did anything with his career.
But all the stuff that was important there, is here in NYC and so, I'm not really missing very much at all. It's dirty here in the city. You can't go a block in flip flops without your feet turning black with grime and filth. No one wears white flowing shirts, brightly colored sun dresses or straw cowboy hats. We don't start drinking at 4pm. And no one is standing in front of my building posing for a sexy picture in their bikini.
But for inspiration, energy, grit, gusto, stimulation and true gonzo-sized balls, it is truly home. We are back, people and with a vengeance. Happy to be together. Anywhere. Here, for right now.
So, to celebrate, I give you a dish we discovered at the hotel restaurant and decided to make it a kitchen staple here.
If you haven't heard of it, it's called Shakshouka and the concept was at first foreign to me, I mean, eggs in tomato sauce? Really? But it won me over and I am a true believer. It'll make a great brunch and if you leave out all the jalapenos and heat, it could be a real winner with the kids.
Enjoy! Hope you all are having a wonderful, magical summer.
The New York Times Version
Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Present in the frying pan for an impressive presentation
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon minced, seeded jalapeño (see note below)
2 red or green bell peppers, roughly chopped
8 fresh plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 28-ounce cans peeled Italian plum tomatoes, strained (juices reserved) and roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika or cayenne pepper (see note below)
2 teaspoons sweet paprika (see note below)
1 teaspoon turmeric (see note below)
1 tablespoon salt, more to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, more to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup vegetable broth
4 large eggs
Zaatar (Middle Eastern spice mixture), for serving (see note below)
Warm pita bread, for serving.
1. Place a large sauté pan over medium heat, and heat oil. Add onion and sauté until lightly browned. Add garlic, jalapeño and bell peppers, and sauté 2 minutes more. Add fresh tomatoes and canned tomatoes. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.
2. Add hot paprika, sweet paprika, turmeric, salt, pepper and sugar. Stir for 1 minute. Add 1 cup canned tomato juice, and 1/2 cup vegetable broth. Bring to a full boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered until mixture is very thick and has little liquid left, about 1 hour; stir occasionally to make sure vegetables do not stick to bottom of pan, and add more tomato juice or vegetable broth as needed.
3. To serve, season to taste with salt and pepper. Gently crack eggs into pan, taking care not to break yolks. Simmer until whites start to solidify but yolks remain runny, 6 to 8 minutes. Ladle equal portions of vegetables and eggs into two serving bowls. Sprinkle with zaatar to taste, and serve with warm pita bread.
Yield: 2 servings.
Just a note: I am doing this recipe without all the heat. I am using a smidge of cayenne just to give it a little kick, but not enough to scare off the children and I'm taking out the jalepeno, sweet paprika, hot paprika, turmeric and zaatar for the first time I make it. When I put the dish in front of the girls, I want the sauce to taste familiar to them since the idea of "eggs in sauce" might seem weird at first. Then, when they get used to eating it and it starts to feel comfortable for them, I'll slowly start changing the flavor profile a little each time I make it.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.