Ok. Where were we?
Recipes have been coming to me this month, the same ones jumping out like targets at a shooting gallery, daring me to make them. Before Christmas, my sister texted me a link to a recipe for shakshuka, eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce – an Israeli breakfast staple that’s similar to the Basque Eggs in Pipérade that blew my mind years ago and yet I don’t think I’ve managed to make since. It’s the sort of simple, inexpensive, easy-to-pull-together dish everyone should have in their repertoire to pull out on a busy weeknight. Wait, it is! In just about every other country in the world – just not so much around here.
This dish is French, and Italian, and Israeli, and Moroccan, and whatever you want it to be, because eggs are universal, as are tomatoes and chilies. It’s a perfect example of a bunch of humble ingredients – things most people have on hand or at least can afford – transforming into something far better than the sum of its parts. Further internet digging came up with formulas made with chili, coriander and cherry tomatoes, others with chickpeas. It would be fab with a crumbled sausage, or with a ratatouille-esque mosh of summer tomatoes, zucchini and eggplant. For now, it was perfect with onion, chilies and a can of good Italian tomatoes – whole, packed in tomato puree.
Bash the tomatoes up with a spoon as they simmer with the onion, chilies and spices, and when the lot is nice and thick, you crack in some eggs and let them simmer.
In the past couple weeks, I’ve stumbled across it at the Kitchn, and SmittenKitchen, and then when a delicious looking new cookbook arrived in the mail, I opened it up to a page with shakshuka on it. Coincidence? Probably. But I couldn’t ignore so many clear reminders.
A smattering of salty feta totally makes it – I imagine goat cheese would be worth a try, too. Most of the recipes I came across suggest pitas for serving, but I urge you not to take your bread decision lightly – the bread is an instrumental element of this meal. It’s made for those of us who love to mop up our plates with good bread – the entire dish is designed for scooping and swiping. So to settle for thin, perhaps stale bread would be a disservice to yourself and the shakshuka. I had just made a crusty no-knead bread, with chewy nooks and crannies perfect for grabbing the spicy sauce. I imagine some soft naan could pinch hit with great success.
a good glug of olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 28 oz. (796 mL) can whole tomatoes, preferably in tomato puree
salt and pepper
1/2 cup crumbled feta
In a large, heavy skillet or shallow pot, heat a generous drizzle of oil and saute the onion and jalapeños for a few minutes, until soft. Add the garlic, paprika, chili powder and cumin and cook, stirring, for another minute or two. Add the tomatoes (I add some water to the can, swish it around and add it too to get all that tomato goodness), season with salt and pepper and cook, breaking the tomatoes up with a spoon, until the mixture simmers and thickens.
Let the mixture thicken until it has the consistency of tomato sauce you’d put on pasta. (Go even thicker, if you like.) When it’s at an even simmer, make 4-8 little dents with a spoon in the surface of the sauce and crack an egg into each. Cover the pot and simmer until the egg whites are opaque but the yolks are still soft – cook them to your liking, really. Serve hot, with good soft bread or toast. Serves 4-6.