Shakshuka, how I love you

I love visiting my daughter in Brookline, and not just because she’s my most brilliant and beautiful daughter, but also because there are so many great restaurants within walking distance of her little apartment. And I like to eat. The last time I stayed over we went to Landwer Cafe, […]

I love visiting my daughter in Brookline, and not just because she’s my most brilliant and beautiful daughter, but also because there are so many great restaurants within walking distance of her little apartment. And I like to eat. The last time I stayed over we went to Landwer Cafe, and I couldn’t get enough of it. I couldn’t believe she hadn’t brought me there before, knowing how much I love everything on the menu. They literally serve shakshuka six ways, and the rest of the menu reads like a cultural culinary tour. My understanding is that shakshuka has North African roots, and has as many variations as there are cooks who prepare it. It’s a common breakfast food in Israel, the NYT notes, but I bet it is eaten any time of day.

Shakshuka looks a little unusual, but the taste, especially if you have a loaf of excellent bread around for dipping, is incredible. That trip off-Island marked the first time I’ve ever had the dish, and I loved it so much that I decided to try making it myself at home. I used the recipe from the NYT that I found online. My eggs were cooked longer than those in the recipe, but that’s only because I’m not a fan of runny yolks, so if I were you, I would keep my eye on the dish in the oven until the eggs are just the way you like them — not too runny and not too firm.

I made the shakshuka at home late one Saturday afternoon, and we had the leftovers for breakfast the next day. I won’t lie, the rest of my family looked at me long and hard when I explained that the dish consists of poached eggs nestled in a delicious, spicy tomato sauce. However, they aren’t quitters, so they all tore off chunks of good French bread I had bought the day before and dug into the shakshuka. It was fun to use the bread to scoop up the rich red sauce, and I believe it might have been the first time I gave the A-OK on eating with our fingers on purpose.

I hope you make this dish on a chilly weekend, even if it has been unseasonably warm lately. Heck, make it if it’s hot outside. It’s comfort food, and your family will love you for it.

Shakshuka with Feta

3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. sweet paprika
⅛ tsp. ground cayenne, or to taste
1 (28-oz.) can whole plum tomatoes with their juices, coarsely chopped
¾ tsp. kosher salt, plus more as needed
¼ tsp. black pepper, plus more as needed
5 oz. feta, crumbled (about 1¼ cups)
6 large eggs
Chopped cilantro, for serving
Hot sauce, for serving

Heat the oven to 375°. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-low. Add onion and bell pepper. Cook gently until very soft, about 20 minutes. Add garlic and cook until tender, 1 to 2 minutes; stir in cumin, paprika, and cayenne, and cook 1 minute. Pour in tomatoes and season with ¾ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper; simmer until tomatoes have thickened, about 10 minutes. Taste, and add more salt and pepper if needed. Stir in crumbled feta.

Gently crack eggs into skillet over tomatoes. Season eggs with salt and pepper. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until eggs are just set, 7 to 10 minutes (this is where I added an additional 7 or so minutes so that my yolks were the way I like them). Sprinkle with cilantro, and serve with hot sauce.

 

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