Shakshouka (Poached Eggs in Spicy Tomato & Pepper Stew)


Shakshouka is a dish of eggs poached in a stew of tomatoes, bell peppers, and onions, spiced with cumin and coriander. It originated in North Africa, but is also popular in the Middle East. I tried shakshouka for the first time a few months ago while having breakfast at a Mediterranean restaurant in New York. I was instantly hooked — I love breakfast, and I especially love a spicy breakfast.

Best of all, shakshouka contains no lactose. If you’re dairy-free or trying to go dairy-free, you can safely add this recipe to your breakfast repertoire. It’s also vegetarian, and if you eat it without pita bread, it’s Paleo, too.

I adapted this recipe from an old vegetarian cookbook. You can do your own variations, but for the heat I recommend using harissa, a Moroccan chile pepper paste that you can find at Middle Eastern grocery stores or Cost Plus World Market.


Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home

1 red bell pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon harissa (or hot sauce to taste)
2 cups diced tomatoes (canned is fine)
4 eggs
minced fresh parsley (optional)
4 slices pita bread (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Roast the bell pepper for 15 to 20 minutes, or until it starts to soften and collapse. Transfer the bell pepper to a bowl and cover it with a towel, letting the pepper steam for 10 minutes. When it’s cool enough to handle, remove the peel and slice the pepper into thin strips, discarding the seeds.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and sauté the onions for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, coriander, and harissa; cook, stirring, for one minute. Stir in tomatoes, sliced bell pepper, and salt and pepper to taste. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

If serving right away: Make four evenly spaced indentations in the stew and crack one egg into each hollow. Cover the skillet and gently cook for several more minutes until the whites are set and yolks are soft-cooked. Transfer to shallow bowls. Sprinkle with parsley.

If making ahead of time: Let the stew cool, transfer it to an airtight container, and refrigerate until needed. In the morning, heat a portion of the stew in a small pan. Make an indentation in the center, crack an egg into it, cover the pan, and cook until the white is set and the yolk is soft-cooked. Transfer to a shallow bowl. Sprinkle with parsley.

Serve with warm pita bread. Makes 4 servings.


Kite Hill Dairy-Free Cream Cheese


It’s almost as hard to find a decent dairy-free cream cheese as it is to find a dairy-free yogurt that doesn’t suck. Most of the nut-based cream cheese alternatives I’ve tried have been gross. But I’d heard good things about the Kite Hill brand, and I have to admit this cream cheese made from almond milk is pretty good.


This spread is tangy, but not sour — unlike the last one I tried, Miyoko’s Kitchen, which made my mouth pucker. Kite Hill’s comes close to tasting like real cream cheese.

As for the texture, it’s fairly smooth, not too grainy. It’s not as dense and heavy as cream cheese, but not as light and fluffy as whipped cream cheese. It’s sort of in between. It reminds me of Alouette, the American-made cheese that’s supposed to seem French. (I’m sure the French are laughing at us for this.) Alouette isn’t bad, but I wouldn’t spread it on a bagel. It’s better on a cracker or a slice of baguette. Same goes for Kite Hill cream cheese.

Nevertheless, I wanted something to spread on a bagel, so that’s what I did.


Overall, it was a positive breakfast experience. Did it make my day? No. But I wasn’t gagging on it, and when it comes to fake cream cheese, that’s saying a lot.

Since I’m only lactose-intolerant and not allergic to dairy, I would choose lactose-free cream cheese over this dairy-free cream cheese (if I had a really excellent bagel and absolutely had to do the cream cheese thing). Green Valley Organics makes lactose-free dairy products, such as sour cream, yogurt, and cream cheese, that all taste exactly like the regular versions.

But if you can’t have dairy (or soy) and you’re craving cream cheese, Kite Hill is a better choice than Miyoko’s Kitchen or Trader Joe’s. Slather up a toasted bagel and let me know if you agree!

Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Peanut Butter Half Baked


When I heard months ago that Ben & Jerry’s was coming out with new non-dairy flavors, I started checking the freezer case at Ralphs every week. Finally, Peanut Butter Half Baked has arrived, just in time for 4/20. You know, baked? Get it? (This is the kind of thing that will seem much funnier on 4/20.)

Why “Half” Baked? Because it contains fudge brownies that are baked, and cookie dough that is not. I have often lamented about no longer being able to eat my favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavor, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, because I’m lactose-intolerant. Well, here’s a dairy-free ice cream that contains raw cookie dough — peanut butter cookie dough, no less! And it’s delicious!


Although on the Ben & Jerry’s website this flavor appears to have a vanilla base, as you can see from the photo above it’s very chocolatey. The two predominant flavors in this ice cream are chocolate and peanut butter, and as evident from the popularity of Reese’s, this is a classic combo that everyone loves.

If I could tinker with this ice cream, I would turn up the dial on the cookie dough and turn down the chocolate. The cookie dough is by far the best thing about this flavor. I’d also prefer that it had more vanilla to it, but we have P.B. & Cookies for that, another B&J’s non-dairy offering that is still my #1 choice.

To read my reviews of other non-dairy Ben & Jerry’s flavors, which are all made with almond milk, click on the tag below that says “Ben & Jerry’s.”

This Friday, get yourself a pint of Half Baked and get thoroughly baked.


Dandelion Chocolate


Last week my husband and I were in San Francisco. When I travel, I like to check out the dairy-free fare available in other cities. As far as I can tell, San Francisco is ahead of the curve when it comes to dairy-free options that don’t leave you feeling deprived. Case in point: Dandelion Chocolate.

Dandelion specializes in small-batch chocolate, and these folks are serious about chocolate. Of course, everyone is serious about everything in San Francisco — it’s actually kind of annoying. For instance, I went to Philz Coffee, very popular in SF, and found out they have about a hundred different kinds of coffee bean blends but no espresso drinks. So you can’t even get a latte. And they make you feel inferior if you want a latte, like that’s not the “right” way to drink coffee, man.

Dandelion is similarly preachy. Next to the chocolate samples there’s a sign that says “How to Taste Chocolate” and lists four steps you’re supposed to follow, as if it were a wine tasting. I’ve been tasting chocolate my whole life, thank you. I did not read the sign and proceeded to pop those chocolate bits into my mouth willy-nilly.

Chocolate bars with varying levels of cacao.

Preachiness aside, Dandelion makes some fantastic chocolate. Their chocolate bars are awesome, but what got me really excited was the hot chocolate, something that us dairy-free folks usually can’t have. Dandelion can make any of their hot chocolate drinks with almond milk.

I ordered the Mission Hot Chocolate, “our spicy take on the Mesoamerican original with Madagascar chocolate and almonds.” As you can see in the photo below, it’s topped with little bits of chili pepper and a homemade marshmallow. Usually I think marshmallows in hot chocolate are overkill, but holy moly, theirs was so good that I never want another hot chocolate without one.

In the background are s’mores. They torch them before serving.

You’ll also notice that the cup comes with a holster containing a small ginger cookie. The cookie itself didn’t blow my mind, but a cookie holster? How adorable is that? It’s these details that stay with you long after the hot chocolate and the cookie are gone.

The hot chocolate itself was rich, decadent, and spicy indeed. As the marshmallow melted, it made the drink thicker and creamier, so that the experience of drinking it changed over time. It was a complex and deeply satisfying beverage that warmed both my belly and my soul. I wished I had been sipping it outside on a cold winter’s night, warming my gloved hands on that cute-as-hell cup.

DANDELION CHOCOLATE, 740 Valencia St., San Francisco, CA 94110 (factory & café)

DANDELION CHOCOLATE, One Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA 94111 (stall only)



Flavor of India

For those of us who can’t or don’t eat dairy, Asian food is usually a safe bet. The one exception is Indian food, which often contains yogurt, milk or cream—such as in chicken tikka masala, korma dishes, mango lassi, raita, and chai tea. This is rotten news for me because I love Indian food. But I’ve found a way to dine at Indian restaurants without eating dairy—at least, at my favorite one, Flavor of India.

There are three Flavor of India restaurants in the Los Angeles area: Burbank, Studio City, and West Hollywood. Of all these, the best is Burbank. When my husband and I lived there, it was our favorite place to eat out. It’s got cozy booths, colorful murals, and big-screen TVs playing Indian pop videos and Bollywood musicals.

Most important, the food at Flavor of India—or as my husband and I call it, Flavor Flav—is interesting and spicy. It’s so good that once we actually started licking our bowls clean, like dogs, before realizing we weren’t in the privacy of our own home.

Now, keep in mind that if you have a dairy allergy, you might still be unable to enjoy some Indian food because a lot of it is cooked with ghee, a form of clarified butter. Technically it’s still dairy, but with the milk solids removed, it’s digestible by those of us who are lactose-intolerant. A nutritionist once even advised me to use ghee for cooking, as it’s considered a “healthy fat.”

Here are a few of the gems at Flavor of India that I love and can eat without getting the dreaded lactose-induced “bubble guts.”


Bhel puri. “India’s most popular railway snack.” A mixture of puffed rice, tomato, potato, onion, and cilantro. It’s a delightful mixture of tastes and textures.


Samosas. A vegetarian turnover stuffed with potatoes, peas and spices. An Indian friend of mine told me, “It’s impossible to mess up a samosa.” But I disagree; I’ve had some mediocre ones. Flavor of India’s are great. They’ve got a flaky exterior that’s not too doughy and an unusually long, pointy shape that makes them easy to bite into. I especially like them dipped in mint chutney (pictured above, right).


Bombay chicken. Like an Indian version of Jamaican jerk chicken. Unfortunately, it’s no longer on the menu, but if you ask for it, the chef will still make it. Long ago, it used to be called “dalla chicken,” and my husband insists on using the original name so that the server knows we’re old-timers and will tell the chef to make it extra spicy.


Mixed vegetable curry. I love dishes that contain a variety of veggies. This curry has cauliflower, carrots, peas, onions, and a savory tomato base and contains no yogurt or cream. Like all their dishes, you can ask for the spice level you prefer.

Rack of lamb. My favorite tandoori specialty at Flavor Flav. Four tender lamb chops covered in a spicy, flavorful rub. Comes with that mint chutney that’s to die for.

Lamb curry. Their best dairy-free meat curry. Tender chunks of boneless lamb in a garlicky, oniony brown sauce. Lamb vindaloo is also great, but much spicier, so beware…


Nimbu panni. Sparkling ginger lemonade. There’s nothing I love more than a cup of chai with my Indian food, but since it’s made with milk, I order a nimbu panni instead. It’s a mixture of lemonade and Reed’s ginger beer. Just sweet enough to put out the fire in your mouth!

There are quite a few vegan dishes on their menu, and some dishes that can be made vegan upon request. Give Flavor of India a try and let me know if you end up licking your plate, or at least thinking about it.

FLAVOR OF INDIA, 161 E. Orange Grove Ave., Burbank, CA 91502

FLAVOR OF INDIA, 12321 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, CA 91604

FLAVOR OF INDIA, 7950 Sunset Blvd #105, West Hollywood, CA 90046