Shakshouka

 
Shakshouka (image T. Freuman)

Shakshouka (image T. Freuman)

Oh, shakshouka. Your beauty is surpassed only by your deliciousness.

It’s the kind of word that invites an exclamation point, doesn’t it?

I first tasted shakshouka as a college student studying abroad in Israel. It’s a brunchy, tomato-and-pepper based egg dish that was contributed to mainstream Israeli cuisine courtesy of the Moroccan Jewish community. (Strangely, though, I’ve visited Morocco twice now and have never actually come across shakshouka there…) Over the years, I’ve made it too many times to count, and always to rave reviews. It’s a vegetable dish that’s sloppy and savory and hearty enough to appeal to the meat-loving, salad-eschewing set… and a sneaky way to get in a solid 1-2 servings of vegetables before noon. It’s also really versatile: you can serve it alone; along with toast; wrapped in a crepe or tortilla, or as I’ve seen them serve it in Israel: stuffed in a pita lined with hummus. Sound weird? Don’t knock it till you try it.

Leftovers can be heated up to make a very respectable weekday dinner, served as suggested above, or as the main filling of a burrito that you enhance with some beans and cheese. But there won't be any leftovers.

Tamara's Shakshouka

Ingredients:

  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped 
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or thinly sliced
  • 2 large bell peppers (mix red, orange or yellow for visual appeal), very thinly sliced into pieces roughly 3-4" in length
  • 2 large handfuls baby spinach leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp ground cumin, or more to taste
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • A dash of ground cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes (can use crushed tomatoes as well but it will take longer for the liquid to cook off)
  • 6 large eggs
  • Optional garnishes: feta cheese, fresh cilantro

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until nice and hot. Add onions and saute until they are soft and somewhat translucent, but not browning (3-4 minutes).
  2. Add garlic and continue to saute for another minute. Add the sliced peppers and stir so that the vegetables are nice and mixed up. (Note: if your large peppers yielded really long strips, feel free to cut them in half so they are more reasonably-sized for a mouthful.)
  3. Add the cumin, coriander, cayenne (if desired), salt and pepper. Continue to saute until peppers start to soften.
  4. Add the spinach and the tomatoes with all of their juice and stir so that all ingredients are mixed well in the pan. Once the tomato liquid starts bubbling, use your spatula to carve out six ‘holes’ in the bubbling vegetable mixture.
  5. Crack an egg into each hole. (If you’re cooking for someone who’s runny-yolk phobic, you may crack your eggs into a separate bowl, whisk them, and then pour them into the holes instead. If you’re avoiding egg yolks for any reason, you can put 2 egg whites or their equivalent in liquid eggwhites into the holes.)
  6. Keep the mixture simmering until the eggs are well-cooked and the yolks are semi-hard. (As the eggs start to set, if need be, scrape aside some of the gooey egg white from atop the hardening yolks so that it gets a chance to cook, too…) The liquid will start to cook off, leaving you with a firm ‘stew’ that you will be able to cut into messy pieces–sort of like a lasagna. When you get to this point, use your spatula to cut the shakshouka into six pieces, each of which should have an egg in it. Serve on toast.