Summer is laying thick and heavy over DC. Life has slowed to a crawl. The air hugs you like a hot cloud, cocooning you, slowing your pace to a hazy stroll. And that’s okay. I have no where pressing to be. The days roll in and roll out. We watch baseball and barbecue with friends and curl up on the couch when the sky opens up and the summer rains set in.
Life at work has slowed, too. My boss is on professional leave until the end of August, so I’m operating in my own little bubble. Plugging away at pet projects, moving at my own pace. My quiet little office is a cozy cave with the lights down low and music humming and a fan lazing back and forth behind me.
The blog has slowed down, too. Have you noticed? After more than a year of weekly posts, I’ve nearly exhausted both my recipe collection and my stories about dad. I think that’s the hardest part about losing someone. The memories are finite. And they fade. It’s becoming harder and harder to remember moments or details. They’re all blending into a vague puddle, an essence of a person with fuzzy edges.
The one thing that hasn’t slowed down is Matt’s work. Poor guy. He hardly slept this week while he prepared for a deposition. I remember when my dad used to prepare for trial. He had a nervous energy about him. He came home late and went in early and holed up in his study when he was home. And he let his hair grow, curly and long, until the trial was over. Cutting your hair is bad luck. Matt has the same focused frenzy when work gets busy. And he lets his hair go, too. Not for superstition’s sake, but because he just doesn’t have time to cut it.
So, the least I can do is keep him well fed. And boy, did I. This recipe is everything. It’s all I ever want to eat. No matter the heat and humidity. There’s lamb. There’s eggs. There’s charred and sweet cherry tomatoes. There’s even pistachios, dad’s favorite. It just seemed like the right meal to make. And while it didn’t make Matt’s work go away, I think it made his belly pretty happy.
Braised Eggs with Lamb, Tahini, and Sumac from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped (1 1/4 cups/200 g total)
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
10 oz/300 g ground lamb
2 teaspoons sumac, plus extra to garnish
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Scant 1/2 cup/50 g toasted, unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped
7 tablespoons/50 g toasted pine nuts
2 teaspoons harissa paste (store-bought or use the recipe in Jerusalem on page 301; see Tips below)
1 tablespoon finely chopped preserved lemon peel (store-bought or use the recipe in Jerusalem on page 303)
1 1/3 cups/200 g cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup/120 ml chicken stock
4 large free-range eggs
1/4 cup/5 g cilantro leaves or 1 tablespoon Zhoug (if you want to use homemade Zhoug, you can use the recipe in Jerusalem on page 301)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Scant 1/2 cup/100 g Greek yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoons/25 g tahini paste
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
1. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a medium, heavy-bottomed frying pan for which you have a tight-fitting lid. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 6 minutes to soften and color a bit. Raise the heat to high, add the lamb, and brown well, 5 to 6 minutes. Season with the sumac, cumin, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and some black pepper and cook for another minute. Turn off the heat, stir in the nuts, harissa, and preserved lemon and set aside.
2. While the onion is cooking, heat a separate small cast-iron or other heavy pan over high heat. Once piping hot, add the cherry tomatoes and char for 4 to 6 minutes, tossing them in the pan occasionally, until slightly blackened on the outside. Set aside.
3. Prepare the yogurt sauce by whisking together all the ingredients with a pinch of salt. It needs to be thick and rich, but you may need to add a splash of water if it is stiff.
4. You can leave the meat, tomatoes, and sauce at this stage for up to an hour. When you are ready to serve, reheat the meat, add the chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Make 4 small wells in the mix and break an egg into each well. Cover the pan and cook the eggs over low heat for 3 minutes. Place the tomatoes on top, avoiding the yolks, cover again, and cook for 5 minutes, until the egg whites are cooked but the yolks are still runny.
5. Remove from the heat and dot with dollops of the yogurt sauce, sprinkle with sumac, and finish with the cilantro. Serve at once.