Sunday, September 15, 2019

Shakshuka for Two

Shakshuka served over spinach with bread
Serve on a Bed of Spinach with Crusty Bread

Recipe by Robin

Shakshuka! A fun word to say, and a delightful dish from North Africa that satisfies at both brunch and supper.  It starts with a thick whole-tomato sauce, chunky with onions and bell pepper, lightly spiced (or not so lightly—your choice) with exotic Middle Eastern flavors. Next, eggs are poached directly in the sauce and topped with green herbs. For extra color and veggie-power, I serve shakshuka on a bed of steamed spinach or julienned steamed zucchini. Traditionally it’s accompanied by hearty homemade white bread for scooping up the yummy sauce.

closeup of tomato sauce, eggs, parsley, and black pepper
Flavorful, Colorful, Healthful, Delectable!
Many consider shakshuka a Jewish food, and I was inspired to try it after reading the hilarious and controversial new book The 100 Most Jewish Foods. This irreverent collection of Jewish favorites by numerous writers contains many an inspiring recipe. Shakshuka originally came to Israel from the Libyan-Tunisian area, where it’s still a popular dish. Some say shakshuka originated in Yemen, others claim its ultimate source as the Ottoman Empire. In any case, it’s Jewish now.

Einat Admony’s Most Jewish Foods shakshuka recipe, with canned tomatoes, caraway seeds, and chard, inspired me to create my own fresh-tomato Libyan-Tunisian-flavored dish. Most shakshuka recipes serve 4 – 6, but I’ve scaled it down to a 2 hungry veggie-holic people size, allowing 2 eggs per person. Leftover tomato sauce can top pasta, spaghetti squash, or an otherwise boring chicken and steamed veg lunch the following day. 

Plate with half-eaten shakshuka and bread portion
Pausing for Reflection on Shakshuka Perfection
Vary the spices if you like, and in particular use the larger quantity of cayenne for a brunchtime kick. Substitute garden mint for some or all of the parsley topping. For quick brunch prep, make the tomato sauce the night before and stow the skillet in the fridge. In the morning, heat sauce to a simmer, then poach the eggs in the sauce while steaming the veggie base and chopping the herb topping.

Let’s celebrate end-of-summer tomato and pepper harvests with shakshuka. Soon our summer crops will be done, as the wheel of the year turns towards winter.

Finished Shakshuka in Skillet, cut into 4 pieces
Cut into Portions in the Skillet
Shakshuka for Two
serves 2

2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups chopped onion (~1 large)
1½ - 1¾ cups chopped green bell pepper (~1 large)
1½ - 1¾cups chopped red bell pepper (~1 large)
2 – 3 cloves minced garlic (1 – 1 ½ tsp.)
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp. tomato paste
3 cups ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 tsp. sweet paprika
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. ground cumin
¼ - ½ tsp. thyme leaves (2 large sprigs, stripped)
1 – 2 pinches cayenne
2 – 3 cups baby spinach, or julienned zucchini
4 eggs
2 tbsp. chopped parsley
fresh ground black pepper, for serving
rustic white bread, for serving

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add onions and saut̩ until translucent, about 5 Р10 minutes. Add red and green bell peppers and cook until slightly softened, about 3 Р5 minutes.

Stir in garlic, bay leaf, and tomato paste. Sauté another 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add tomatoes. Stir in paprika, salt, coriander, cumin, thyme, and cayenne. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Lower heat to medium low and simmer about 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, till sauce thickens and appears mostly solid (ie. able to make divots for poaching the eggs).

Meanwhile, prepare the base. Arrange spinach on plates, sprinkle with water, and microwave about 50 seconds to wilt. Or, steam zucchini (or other veggie) about 6 minutes until crisp-tender.

Remove shakshuka from heat. Crack 4 eggs into individual cups .

Press or scoop out 4 hollow cavities (depressions) in the sauce to hold the poaching eggs. Each cavity will not contain the whole egg, nor will it hold its shape very long, so they needn’t be perfect.

Quickly transfer each egg to a prepared cavity. Turn heat on to low, and cover skillet. Simmer for about 10 minutes, till egg whites are no longer translucent.

Layer steamed zucchini, if using, onto plates.

Remove shakshuka from heat and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Cut shakshuka into 4 pieces and slide two pieces onto each plate atop the steamed veggies. It’s easiest to do this with a spatula in one hand and a serving spoon in the other.

Top shakshuka with ground black pepper and serve immediately with crusty white bread. Enjoy!
Tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, and savories in a skillet
Start with Savories

Tomato sauce simmering in skillet
Simmer, Stir, Simmer, Stir, Simmer
Thick tomato sauce, ready for poaching eggs
Thickened to Perfection
Thick tomato sauce topped with 4 eggs
Add Eggs, Cover, and Simmer More
Eggs Poached in tomato sauce in skillet
Poached to Perfection
poached eggs and tomato sauce topped with parsley and pepper
Sprinkle with Herbs and Black Pepper
Plate of shakshuka served over zucchini spears with crusty bread
Serve with Bread and Steamed Zucchini

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