So, a few days ago I posted a random compilation of thoughts and goals for 2011. I didn’t think long and hard about it, but just threw out some ideas that I’d been thinking about, recipes I’d wanted to try, and things along these lines.
So, here I am, just a few days later: and I can already cross one of these things off my list. I made Shakshuka!
OK, so many of you are probably wondering what in the world shakshuka is. I only recently learned of this dish, when my friend Cait announced that she was going to make it for our weekly girl’s night dinner. When I heard she was making shakshuka, I had a “What the…?” moment. I had never heard of such a thing. But after a quick wiki-ing, I learned that it is a mediterreanean tomato and pepper stew with poached eggs. (Cait said that growing up, her family called it “Eggs in Hell”, which I think is a rather fitting description.)
So, I had my very first taste of skakshuka at Cait’s house and it was wonderful. And then, literally the next day I started seeing shakshuka everywhere. All of the sudden, shakshuka was all the rage in Portland. You see, all the Portland papers started announcing their 2010 Best Restaurant lists and a new place called Tasty N Sons was at the top every list. And what did they all say was the dish to get at Tasty N Sons? That’s right: shakshuka.
So, Nich and I decided to see what all the fuss was about. We waited an hour for a table (at 11:00am on a Thursday!) and eagerly awaited our shakshuka. It did not disappoint. I can’t say I was as thrilled with all the other Tasty N Sons dishes (sorry, it was good, but not BEST restaurant in Portland good.), but the shakshuka was astonishingly delicious. We were impressed with the depth of flavors that a mere tomato and pepper stew could bring to the table. The dish was hearty, filling, and comforting. It was so delicious, in fact, that Nich and I vowed to make our own.
Flash forward to a few nights later, and Nich and I were at home without much in the way of plans for the evening. I had just baked a fresh loaf of bread, there was a Blazers game on, and we needed to figure out something to make for dinner. After flipping through The New Book of Middle Eastern Food - a wedding present and one of my favorite cookbooks – we saw a recipe for authentic shakshuka and decided to go for it. The recipe doesn’t take a lot of speciality ingredients, it isn’t complicated, and it’s relatively quick to make. Plus, I had just bought really wonderful local eggs (from the Urban Farm Store) and we were thrilled to poach them in such a worthy sauce.
Even though it was our first attempt, I would venture to say that our shakshuka rivals the only other two I’ve tried (Cait’s and Tasty N Sons). It was thick, rich, and flavorful – and we looooooooooved it. I can already tell that this will be a staple in our household.
(Adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food – which is a wonderful cookbook and I highly recommend it!)
(*Note: many add sausage to their shakshuka. The Tasty N Sons version had lamb merguez sausage and it was wonderful. We didn’t have any sausage, so we made ours vegetarian).
2 large (28oz) cans whole tomatoes
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 white or yellow onion, sliced thin
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1.5 tsps Harissa paste
1 pinch saffron (*optional)
2 tsps ground cumin
Dash of red chili flakes
1.5 tsps smoked paprika
Salt & pepper, to taste
4-6 farm fresh eggs
Crusty bread and/or warm pita
1. First, you must roast the bell peppers (you can use store bought roasted peppers, but roasting your own is really the best). There are a couple different ways you can go about this. If you have a gas stovetop, you can turn on a burner and roast the peppers (use metal tongs!) over the open flame. Rotate the pepper often, until the skin is blackened on all sides. If you do not have a gas stove, you can roast your peppers by broiling them in your oven, making sure to turn often so the skin blackens on all sides. Once the skin has blackened, place peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for at least 10 minutes. Once they have cooled enough to handle, remove the skin (it should come off easily at this point) and then thinly slice the roasted peppers.
Put a generous amount (2 Tbl) olive oil in a heavy pan, dutch oven, or cast iron skillet and heat over med-high heat. Add in sliced onions and cook until nearly translucent. Lower the heat slightly and add in minced garlic and roasted peppers, stir and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add in the tomatoes (and juices), harissa, and spices. (If using whole canned tomatoes, crush with your hands, a potato masher, etc.) Heat on Med until the mixture comes to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for at least a half hour.
Once the mixture has thickened and some of the liquid has reduced, taste and season to your preference (I like it a little spicy!). When the tomato sauce is ready, crack 4 (or 6, depending on how many people you are feeding) eggs on top of the tomato sauce. For ease, I recommend cracking the eggs into small individual bowls and lowering the bowls into the tomato mixture, and letting the egg slide out of the bowl gently onto the sauce. Cover the pan and let the eggs cook in the liquid until the whites are opaque (about 6 minutes).
Gently ladle into shallow bowls (1 egg per person) and serve with crusty bread or pita. Garnish with fresh parsley and crumbled feta.