Years ago, while living in my second tacky Berkeley apartment, my mother gave me a beautiful stainless steel All-Clad pot. What prompted this wonderful gifting was that my parents were coming up for a visit and I was having visions of grandeur about making them brunch in my closet-sized kitchen. A few days earlier, I had stumbled upon a Mario Batali recipe of baked eggs in spinach which had all of my "I'm-in-college-and-I-don't-cook", criteria: It was easy, healthy, and looked freaking yummy! The only problem was that among my ridiculous mix of IKEA pans and hand-me-down knives, I didn't have the right cooking vessel. "What can I bring you?" my mom asked a few days before their visit. "Um...how about a stainless steel pot?" I asked, worried that she was thinking more along the lines of cookies and laundry detergent. "A pot it is! We can't wait to see you," she gushed.
They soon arrived, pot in tow, like wide-eyed collegiates themselves, eager to explore the campus, near-by restaurants, and of course, drag me to Target. And with all the running around, I completely forgot to make them brunch! That's right...it never happened, and that poor Batali recipe has gone unmade to this day (though over the years I've thought about it a lot, if that counts for anything). Fast forward nearly a decade to last month when I went to an amazing Israeli restaurant on the recommendation of my dear, foodie loving friend Asi. (We quickly connected freshman year of high school over our mutual love of swing dancing, mutual dislike of our Spanish teacher Senor Tucker, and our severe addiction to sushi.)
As I was going on and on in my debriefing to him about my glorious meal (a requisite after any Asi recommendation) he interrupted me and said, "Have you ever had Shakshuka?" Now, Asi talks really fast, so to be honest I had no idea what he said. "One more time, please", I teased. "Shakshuka. It's an Israeli breakfast dish of eggs baked in spicy tomato sauce. It's awesome!" Though the only thing this dish had in common with the never-attempted egg recipe of my young adulthood was well, eggs, I was definitely intrigued. So I decided this dish, this little Israeli breakfast favorite, would be my baked egg redemption. It was on!
Shakshuka truly is, in Asi's words, awesome! It is terrifically easy and provides such amazing flavor you almost feel like it's cheating. Honestly, it is a bone fide too-good-to-be-true dish. Traditionally eaten for breakfast, I served it for dinner alongside basmati rice and a cabbage and arugula salad. Though perfect for a no-time-to-cook evening, I would venture to say Shakshuka is a dish to be eaten at any time. I used cayenne to create the spice, but a jalapeño pepper would do the job just as well. And for those of you familiar with Shakshuka you are probably thinking, "But she forgot the bell pepper!" Please know, I did not forget the bell pepper. They just aren't in season at the moment so I took a leap and went without it. I promise to throw one in come July. Enjoy!
Shakshuka (Poached Eggs in Spicy Tomato Sauce)
1/4 cup of olive oil 1/2 a medium yellow onion, diced 3 cloves garlic, minced 2 teaspoons ground cumin 1 teaspoon ground paprika 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne 1 28-ounce whole peeled tomatoes (you can also used a can of crushed fire roasted tomatoes) 1/4 cup water Sea salt and pepper to taste 4 organic eggs
In a medium sized pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until soft and golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, paprika and cayenne. Mix thoroughly and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Put the tomatoes and their liquid in a bowl and break them up with your hands. Add the tomatoes and liquid plus a 1/4 of water to the onion mixture. Place the heat on medium and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thick, about 10-12 minutes. Season with salt.
Crack each egg into the pot so they are evenly distributed and remain close to the surface. Cover and cook until the yolks are set, roughly 6 minutes. Sprinkle salt and pepper over each egg and ladle onto individual plates with rice and salad.
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