Shakshuka

shakshuka8Not surprisingly, I read a lot of food blogs. I don’t just read new posts, though. I’ll go into archives, hitting the “older” button at the bottom of the page until I’ve pressed it so many times I’m frustrated.

Something I’ve discovered from this almost obsessive reading is this dish called shakshuka. Shakshuka is from Israel, Tunisia, the Middle East and/or North Africa– those are all of the places from which I’ve read it originates. Wikipedia says it’s originally Tunisian, and I guess that’s perhaps the most reliable source for me right now.

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It’s made with bell peppers, tomatoes, spices and eggs, and it’s served with bread for sopping up all of the juices and slightly runny egg yolks. It’s the sort of veggie heavy dinner that I like, so I looked for a recipe with the most ingredients that I already have. I made it, and then I made it again with some tweaks, and I really like it.

Shakshuka seems like an ideal winter meal, but the ingredients are seasonal right now. It’s spicy, too, so it doesn’t quite match the steamy hot weather of North Carolina summers. However, I learned on a trip to New Orleans earlier this year that spicy food makes you sweat, which cools you off, which is why you’ll often find spicier cuisines in warmer geographies. Therefore, shakshuka is a great meal to eat now while you can get awesome tomatoes and peppers at the farmer’s market, perhaps cooling you off, and it’ll warm you up in the winter, too.

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Shakshuka
adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi via The Guardian
makes 4 servings
four-stars

Notes:

My largest saute pan is 3.25 quarts (9 inch diameter and 3 inches tall). This is really the smallest saute pan you can use. If you have a larger one, use that. If you don’t have a large saute pan, substitute a 4 quart sauce pan. It’s not ideal, but it will get the job done.

Saffron is expensive, so please don’t buy it specially for this. If you already have some or had been thinking about purchasing some to have around, it’s a nice addition, but it is not necessary.

Don’t cook this in a cast iron skillet. Although many pictures of shakshuka on the internet feature a cast iron skillet, cast iron really isn’t meant to cook acidic foods such as tomatoes. The acid can break down the seasoning on the skillet, and your dish can end up with a metallic taste.

The tomato and pepper mixture can be made in advance. Refrigerate it, and then divide it between two skillets, reheating the mixture to get it almost simmering over medium heat before adding eggs.

 

½ teaspoon ground cumin
vegetable oil
2 large or 2 ½ small yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
the leaves from 6 sprigs of thyme, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
spoonful of sugar
6 large tomatoes, roughly chopped (about 2 pounds)
¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
pinch of saffron threads (optional)
8 large eggs
½ cup feta, crumbled

1. Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add cumin, and dry roast for 2 minutes.

2. Add enough oil to the pan to coat the bottom of the pan, and then add onions. Saute the onions for about 2 minutes, until softened but not yet translucent.

3. Add bell peppers, 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, parsley, thyme, bay leaves and sugar (if usingt) to the pan. Toss and cook until the vegetables have a nice and still bright color, about 7 minutes. I chop the tomatoes while this cooks.

4. Mix in tomatoes, cayenne, black pepper, salt and saffron threads (if using). Reduce heat to medium low, and simmer for 15 minutes. The mixture will be the consistency of a chunky pasta sauce with lots of juices. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

5. Transfer half of pepper and tomato mixture into a medium-sized saute pan or skillet over medium heat. Make sure that the mixture is covering all of the pan, but push it up the sides a little. Break 4 eggs into the center of the mixture in each pan. Sprinkle with salt, and cover. Cook for 10-15 minutes, starting to check after 10 minutes to see if the eggs are cooked. Immediately once all of the eggs are cooked, remove from heat. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and ¼ cup feta for each pan, and serve with a hearty bread.

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