"I think it's nice that there are all different kinds of lunches and breakfasts and dinners and snacks. I think eating is nice." – Albert from Bread and Jam for Frances, by Russell C. Hoban
Shakushuka at it’s most basic is that wonderful marriage between egg and tomato. Eggs with ketchup on the side, made more sophisticated if you will. Eggs delicately poached in a savory and piquant sauce of tomato, hot pepper, with some red pepper and onion tossed around in the sauce for a bit of bulk. Over the past few years, many local restaurants have begun tinkering with this popular dish, yielding the popular tomato-free spinach and feta version and others that vary that basic ingredients and add in relevant extras like olives, eggplant, zucchini, etc.
A friend who was married to a guy of Sicilian descent, introduced us to his family favorite, eggs with sauce, which we of course, looked at and, looked at each other and said ‘Shakshuka,’ As usual, when it comes to simple peasant dishes there are variations for every ethnicity – theirs was more Italian in flavor than ours with its notes of the Middle East.
I make Shakshuka with whatever I have on-hand veggie wise, always going for a chunky take on the dish and taking the long view on a quick dinner dish that’s always welcome during a busy work week – meaning, it’s a one-dish meal, all your veggies included. Add some toast on the side, and a bit of hot sauce on top, like the Yemenite cilantro-and-hot-pepper-based ‘schug’ relish, or salsa on top, and you’re done.
Shakshuka for 6
Needed: 2 large pans. I used a 12″ and a 10″ side by side.
2 onions, halved and sliced thinly
1/2 of a hot red pepper – sliced into rings or chopped, about 1/8 cup.
Note: If you don’t have any, add a pinch of red pepper flakes when you add in the spices.
2 red peppers, chopped
1 fennel, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 zucchinis, chopped
2 bunches swiss chard, or other cooking greens, stemmed, chopped, washed and drained. Reserve the stems and chop (make sure to rinse well) and keep separately from the greens.
1 large can plum tomatoes in sauce – chop the tomatoes into chunks.
1/4 cup red wine – optional
3 tbsp capers, drained – optional
1/4-1/3 cup of feta cheese, crumbled – optional
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried thyme
1-2 tsp cumin or part cumin seed and part cumin
Note: I made this in two frying pans, a 12″ and an 10″. Both are oven proof which is ideal.
Stove top to Oven dish: Preheat the oven to 400f, or about 200c
Making the dish: Warm pan and add 1-2 tbsp of olive oil. Add the onions and sauté until they begin to soften 3-5 minutes. Next add the fennel, garlic, peppers, green stems, and spices – sauté well, another 5 minutes, or so.
When things are nicely tender, add the greens – make sure they’re well-drained – and the zucchini, and the tomatoes and their sauce – ideally about 1 cup of sauce. If you need a bit more of liquid, add some red wine or even water or apple juice will do in a pinch. The vegetables will give up a fair amount of liquid. If you like your Shakushuka sauce thicker, add in 1-2 tbsp of tomato paste as needed. Cook the veg sauce for approximately 10 minutes until everything has come together well and the sauce has reduced a bit and thickened. Add in the capers if you’re using, taste for seasoning and correct accordingly.
Break the eggs into the pan, making sure to space them a few inches apart. Keep the pan on the fire for a few minutes longer until things begin to set slightly. Then, put the pans into the oven and bake the dish until it’s set according to your ‘egg taste,’ about 10-15 minutes. The eggs should be set but still runny in the yolk – try not to overcook the yolks as they will continue to set and harden after the dish comes out of the oven. If the sauce was very loose, it may take a bit more time to set and cook the eggs.
Note: If you like cheese, sprinkle with feta about 5 minutes before the dish is done.