Really Amazing Bread and Chakchouka

Really Amazing Bread and Chakchouka


I had a high energy day yesterday. I guess sometimes it does happen!

I used all that excess energy to make a super fussy artisan bread loaf that was totally worth the effort. The recipe is here: The Power of the Poolish. (With many thanks to Auntie Leila for the link.)


It felt like I had to do something to the bread dough every five minutes or so. It totally ate into my afternoon nap. That’s so not cool. I was afraid I’d killed it when I dumped it onto the pizza stone and it was a sad flat blob. My attempt to score the top was pathetic because I don’t have a sharp enough knife. But it bounced back in the oven something lovely. And oh the crust was perfect and the crumb was light and airy and yet substantial enough to really hold the weight of a soupy, thick chakchouka.


Chakchouka. Have I explained to you the wonders of chakchouka? I thought I’d surely posted the recipe before; but I couldn’t find it on our cooking blog. Must remedy that situation soon.

Here’s a quick run-down, though.

First, you chop up some onions and get a variety of peppers, which you de-seed and cut into strips. Sautee the onions and sweet peppers in some olive oil.

Like this:


Next, you add some grated tomato and the hot peppers. The best is when you actually get some fresh tomato and grate it. I didn’t have fresh tomatoes so I used canned ground tomato. It was still pretty good.


Then you stir in some salt and cayenne. Did I mention this is spicy? Once I made a dish of chakchouka even I could hardly eat. My sister and I refer to it still as the nuclear chakchouka. But most of the time it’s edible. At least if you’re from Texas.

Then you crack some eggs on top and poach them in the sauce. (Your best bet it to crack them into a little bowl and slide them on one at a time.)


I forgot to take a picture of it before the sauce went on top of the eggs. I spooned the sauce on top of the eggs as they cooked.

And that’s chakchouka. If you want to be traditional, you can eat it right out of the pan. Just dip your bread in and enjoy. Or you can be American and spoon it onto your plate. It’s all good.


This is the first time I’ve made my own bread to go with it. Usually I just pick up a loaf of something crusty at the supermarket. Now I may be spoiled for doing that, though. Which is a shame because chakchouka is a really quick and easy dinner. Great for Friday nights when it’s too hot to turn on the oven.

There is something very soul-satisfying about making a truly spectacular meal. So what if the floors didn’t get vacuumed? In fact, nothing got done except the making of the really good meal. (I just want you to know that lest you think I’m some kind of super woman. I made a really fabulous loaf of bread; but my floors are filthy.)

I had the last of the chakchouka for breakfast this morning after I came back from Mass. Mmmm…. heavenly! (By the way so was going to Mass all by my lonesome. A necessity, I claimed because Ben is teething still and wants to take his nap during our usual Mass time and will get very fussy. It felt like a super self-indulgence though to slip away with no kids. So quiet and peaceful.)

Anyway, that’s the story of the bread and the chakchouka. If you want the actual recipe, let me know and I’ll post it.

Now I’m going to go have the last slice of bread with some Nutella. (Don’t tell the kids.)

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  • St Teresa of Jesus teaches that prayer is not talking much but loving much.  “Mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.  In order that love be true and the friendship endure, the wills of the friends must be in accord.”

  • Is that not something beautiful about the Bible—it is full of narratives and songs and poems and letters.  Prayer can take so many forms

  • That thought shared by Elizabeth came from a phone conversation we shared. I think it has mostly to do with the way writers navigate their lives, always seeing what is before them and processing it into prose…to be presented to others. (Therein lies the problem.)

    It’s not so much about the narrative as it pertains to prayer, but as it pertains to living life by a thought process that makes everything a blog post or column. Life becomes fodder for words. It’s about living outside of the heart and can be quite a struggle.

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts. The pondering in narrative within the heart that you write of…that is beautiful. Thanks for sharing them.

  • Dear Melanie
    Thank you for taking such care to be so kind. I truly, truly appreciate it. I think you misunderstood what I meant when I wrote about thinking in narrative. The narrative I am guarding my heart against is not the infusion of God and His story into my daily round. The narrative I want to wean myself from is the constant pounding of my own thoughts, the drone of my own commentary. When I think in narrative, I give voice (usually in my head, but not always;-) to what I am doing or feeling or saying. Instead, I want to quiet my voice and to join my thoughts and actions to His voice, so that instead of talking incessantly I am listening incessantly. In this manner, I am better able to be an open vessel to His grace. With grace directing my thoughts and actions, instead of my own narrative, I will be better able to enter wholeheartedly into the life of my family, loving them as God intends. I wrote this column a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps it better clarifies what I mean:

    Bless you!

  • Dear Elizabeth,

    Thank you for your gracious response. I do regret that my musings failed to adequately address the fact that I had wrenched your words out of their proper context. I know I addressed a meaning that wasn’t precisely what you meant but rather the sense of the words that stuck in my head as I recalled them at a remove from reading your original piece. Thus I wasn’t so much engaging with the full meaning of your statement so much as using it as a jumping off point for some thoughts of my own. If I had had more time and energy I’m sure I could have clarified that more and perhaps I should have waited to publish my thoughts until I could have done so. But of late too many of my ideas go astray in the execution and sometimes I think this blog is more of a forum for a draft of ideas than finished, polished thoughts.

    I do understand the constant narrative commentary that you speak of. Or at least I know that I have something similar in my own head. I won’t presume to know how similar mine is to yours. I do know the struggle to listen, to be open to grace, to cultivate silence. And I also see that your struggles are not mine, your situation is not mine, and so I fear that my musings trespassed roughly into a private area, your sharing of an inner space, where perhaps I should have been more wary to stray. If so, I do apologize.

    I think perhaps the idea I was straining after is wondering if that kind the narrative you are guarding against is more of an excess of a good rather than vicious in itself? Because it does seem to me that the tendency to narrate ones own life is an innate one. (Or does it perhaps accompany a life formed by the constant presence of reading and writing?) I seem to see my girls at two and four already making themselves the subject of their own narratives.

    I certainly do take your point about the necessity of cultivating silence and learning to quiet that voice, to open ourselves to listening. But I wonder if it can’t be more a matter of finding balance rather than needing to root out the tendency to narrative altogether? Again, I’m speaking in generalities and not trying to question your discernment of what you need to do for yourself.

    I wonder if I’m just saying the same thing in a different way, talking past your point altogether,  or finding a different solution to the same problem, another way to approach the same question? I’m still feeling my way into this idea, forgive me, but maybe another way of preventing the the internal narrative from being ego-driven and from becoming the drama queen of my own life and perhaps letting the tendency to narrate be overwhelming (setting aside for a moment the question of the need for cultivating times of silence) couldn’t be to turn that narrative drive over to God, allowing Him to become the power driving it? Because, while allowing that everyone thinks differently, I’m not sure I could completely quiet the tendency to narrate; but I do think that I could tame it to flow within more narrow bounds, to serve Him rather than to serve ego? Does that make sense?

    I suppose here again I’m drifting away from your own point and into a side stream of my own. Really, I’m trying to sort out the implications of what you say for my own tendency to narrate my life rather than trying to second guess the insights you have achieved about your own spiritual struggles. As I think about the subject, I’m recognizing that in the past few years I’ve tried to allow my tendency to narrate my own life to become an opportunity for recognition of moments of grace, to become a sort of dialogue rather than a monologue, so that it becomes a point of entry for grace and a spur to contemplation, to move deeper into listening. Does that make sense?

    I suppose I’m saying that it is a question we must all grapple with but that we may find different ways of coming to peace with this narrative voice. And perhaps at different stages of life different approaches are more or less appropriate? Perhaps in time I may come to need more quieting of my inner narrator and this compromise I’ve currently hashed out will not work for me any longer.

    I’m also thinking pedagogically (and now I’m really running quite far afield from your point). How do I direct this tendency to narrate in my own children? Can I help them to use it to approach Him? They live so much in an imaginative world… can that world be made more open to the workings of grace?

    Again my time for writing has come to an end and I fear I have once again talked past your point and rambled on and one. If so, I apologize. I wish I wasn’t so tired or I would be able to take more care in my writing. And yet somehow I cannot not write…. Which I suppose goes to your point somehow. But I’ll leave it at that for now.