Tomato sauce, peppers, garlic, middle eastern spices, poached eggs, and fresh crusty bread. Shakshuka is a breakfast, lunch, and dinner that I will never tire of. It was my favorite meal when I was traveling all over Israel many years ago. The breakfasts foods we Americans are used to are so bland in comparison. Where is the freshness? The vegetables? The fresh baked bread on every corner? When you travel the world and eat at the most incredible cafes along tiny cobblestone streets, or little street carts hiding in back alleys, you become so entranced and determined to recreate it as much as you can in the comfort of your own home. Part of the reason I love cooking so much is because it expands my horizons. It allows me to get a taste of other cultures, other countries. It gives me challenges to conquer, spices to mix, flavors to dissect. I love learning about all the background stories that created cuisines. I imagine the histories of the strong hands of women shaping doughs, harvesting vegetables, gripping knives and raising their families one meal at a time. Cooking allows me to share stories and memories, not thru words or written text, but through tastes and flavors.
This recipe for Shakshuka is adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's cookbook Jerusalem. I strongly recommend purchasing this book if you love the incredible flavors of the Mediterranean.
2 Tbsp Olive oil
2 Tbsp harissa (*optional if you don't like spice or do not have any)
2 tsp tomato paste
2 large red peppers
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
5 large very ripe tomatoes, chopped (*I usually sub 1 28oz can crushed tomatoes if I don't have fresh)
4 (or more) large free-range eggs
1/2 cup labneh (or thick greek yogurt)
*I like to garnish mine with chopped parsley, kalamata (or castelvetrano) olives, and feta cheese.
Serve with fresh crusty bread, or fresh naan.
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and add the harissa, tomato paste, peppers, garlic, cumin and teaspoon salt. Stir and cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes to allow the peppers to soften. Add the tomatoes, bring to a gentle simmer, and cook for 10 minutes more, until the sauce is pretty thick. Taste for seasoning.
Make 8 little dips in the sauce with a spoon. Gently break the eggs and carefully pour each into its own dip. Take care not to break the yolks. Simmer gently for 8-10 minutes until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still a tad bit runny. (You can cover the pan with a lid if you want to speed up the process). Remove from the heat, leave for a couple minutes to settle, then serve onto individual place and serve with labneh, parsley, olives, feta, and fresh crusty bread.
You can purchase Yotam Ottolenghi's cookbook Jerusalem here.