The Every Kitchen has a lot going on today, so let’s get right to it! If you’re here for the recipe — Red Pepper Shakshuka with Goat Cheese — scroll to the bottom, but I can promise you won’t want to miss everything in between. Today, my oldest friend, Melissa, is talking all things Israel in what I hope will be the first post in a new The Every Kitchen series.
Here goes nothing!
Meet Melissa. Melissa and I were born just three weeks apart and we grew up inseparable.
As we grew into adults, Melissa became this soft-spoken, kind-hearted, cherished friend and it was the most natural thing in the world when she graduated from college in 2010, became an elementary school teacher, and married an equally-soft spoken and kind-hearted man a few years later.
She is still soft-spoken and kind-hearted, but now I have all of these fiery words to describe her too. Inspiring. Bold. Independent. Passionate, driven, brave. An adventurer, a go-getter, an entrepreneur. She generally kicks butt at life. I think Melissa has always been all of these things, but they have really shone through over the past few years.
In 2015, Melissa left her teaching job to pursue a passion of videography, first joining a small marketing firm, and then branching out on her own. I remember my mouth dropping open… but you’re a perfect 4th grade teacher!, I thought. Then, in 2016, she and her husband, Vance, packed up their little starter home in North Carolina, took their businesses on the road, and traveled through Europe for six months.
As I was making Red Pepper Shakshuka with Goat Cheese, a Middle Eastern dish, I had the idea to ask Melissa to co-author this post because her photos elevated Israel to a top spot on my To Travel List. Let’s see if her photos and stories do the same for you.
Last year, my husband and I finally followed through on a dream we’d been dreaming for a few years. With the ability to do that work grind from anywhere, we wanted to spend time traveling, exploring new cultures, taking beautiful pictures, and eating all. the. food.
In our six months of galavanting, we went made stops in Britain, Croatia, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, France, and Israel. Let’s be real, they were all amazing. But you always have that one place, that one experience, that pops up in your mind unexpectedly, reminding you of how amazing it was and calling you to go back. For me, that place is Israel.
To see, feel, smell and taste things that were so vibrant and rich, so foreign, yet so beautiful, was amazing — we were absolutely enthralled by everything Israel had to offer. Within hours of arrival, we were in our rental car driving up the coast from Tel Aviv, stopping to eat fresh falafel for lunch, and feeling so thankful that we decided to visit this place that felt a little off the beaten path.
Our adventures took us on a loop of sorts, up the coast past Caesarea, through the Jezreel Valley and around the Sea of Galilee. These areas felt nearly serene compared to the hustle down in Jerusalem.
But oh, Jerusalem.
If you aren’t slightly overwhelmed by the time you make your way through the Old City walls, you obviously aren’t doing something right. The intersections of life there are mind-boggling and the history is nothing less than wild and humbling. Every morning we’d head out, grab a cup of Turkish coffee at the nearest vendor, and wind our way through the stone streets.
And the food. From the day I first tasted hummus (in the kitchen of Danielle herself!), I’ve been obsessed. To be in a place where fresh hummus is almost a given with each meal was everything to me! And the bread. Bread is a beautiful symbol of life and daily sustenance in Israel. For less than a dollar, we could pick up a warm Jerusalem Bagel and snack all the way home.
Better than anything though, was the people that we met. Our host in Galilee who made us breakfast every morning. Our tour guide in the Old City who was the most animated person ever. Our friends of friends who invited us to Shabbat dinner. These are the reasons we will continue to feel a longing to go back. That connection to place, mostly because of people.
Our two weeks there could have been extended to two months and we still would not have experienced everything this tiny country has to offer. But for now, I’ll be thankful for the opportunities we did have… and maybe scroll through my photostream every once in a while to have just a small taste of it all again.
When I approached Melissa with the idea to co-author a blog post, her concern was that she didn’t go through Israel with a “food blog” point of view. She worried that what she had to say wouldn’t align with The Every Kitchen. But as I read Melissa’s post, what strikes me is how unintentionally central food is… Turkish coffee with her husband. The host who made them breakfast. Shabbat dinner with friends of friends. Bread as a symbol of life. Through food — and the acts of eating, sharing, giving, and receiving food — we experience other cultures and turn strangers into friends. Melissa and Vance are proof of this.
Melissa is a documentary-style videographer that loves telling good stories about people and businesses that are making a difference in their communities. She lives in Winston Salem, NC, with her husband. Have a story for Melissa to tell? Check out her video portfolio, her travel blog, and her photos to learn more.
I know you guys are also here for the Red Pepper Shakshuka with Goat Cheese. I will let these photos do all the talking. (The down and dirty details: one-skillet, easy to make, healthy, and a ton a flavor!)
Red Pepper Shakshuka with Goat Cheese
This Red Pepper Shakshuka with Goat Cheese recipe will make you a breakfast-all-day kind of person. Rich in flavor, easy to make, and good for you too! Healthy, sugar free, and gluten free.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion diced
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 28- ounce can diced tomatoes
- salt and pepper to taste
- 6 eggs
- 3 ounces goat cheese sliced into 1/2 ounce rounds
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley
- Sliced pita for serving
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell pepper. Cook gently until very soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, paprika, and red pepper flakes and cook until aromatic, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour in tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer until tomatoes have thickened, about 10 minutes.
Using the back of a spoon, create 6 wells. One at a time, crack each egg into a bowl, then gently spoon in the wells. Add goat cheese. Cover and simmer about 10 minutes until egg whites are just set and the centers are still runny. Cook longer, if desired. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with fresh pita.