Shakshoukah: A Food We Can All Agree On

Lone tomato heartLone tomato heart - closerLone tomato heart - closest

I will not talk about politics.

I will not talk about politics.

I will not talk about politics.

Stabbed through the heart

So, I’m not going to talk about politics.

Stabbed bleeding tomato

Because someone will always have something mean to say, and because Reality, as always, is more complex than it is simplistic.

Bleeding, bleeding tomato heart

For those of you who don’t know, my country has become somewhat of a war-zone lately. It really sucks. Really.

Blown up pepper

And as my name implies, I try to be graceful about it.

Bleeding tomato, blown up pepper
I will say one thing though: regardless of my political opinion, I believe some things can be agreed upon. I believe that we shouldn’t believe every little thing we hear in the news. I believe that innocent civilians should not live in constant fear and panic. And while I am a big fan of turning the other cheek, I also believe that there comes a time when you need to stand up to bullies. Whichever side you are on, I think those things can be agreed upon (what conclusions we draw from those beliefs will probably be different, if not opposing, sometimes). If someone can’t agree on something so inclusive and humane, then they are a part of the problem.
Ugh, I did it, even though I said I wouldn’t. Sorry.

Broken garlic

Another thing that I believe in is the good of people. I sincerely believe there are more little people interested in peace and harmony than there are big-shot leaders interested in war and gain.

Crumpled onion

I think that those little people can and should come together around the simple things that unite us, rather than become conflicted over our differences. Things that go beyond our political or ethnic boundries… Things like music, literature, and, of course: food.

Dying egg

Dead egg

Glancing at the right hand side of this website, you can see a cloud of tags that pertain to the recipes on this blog. The larger a tag is, the more frequently it is used. You can clearly see that rice, spicy, and Middle-Eastern are by-far the winning categories for me. And that accurately describes where I come from. But around it you can see Asian, Italian, and countless more random descriptions, that decribe the other cuisines I have opened up my kitchen (and palette) to.

Bleeding tomato, blown up pepper, broken garlic, dead egg

I also think it’s funny that on either side of the border we enjoy very similar foods. I remember watching Bruno and the two ridiculous sides “making progress” by agreeing that Hummus is healthy. It was an obviously ridiculous scene, completely unrelated to reality but… Something about it made me think. Us little people can agree on something. Especially if it’s delicious.

Shakshouka: A Food We Can All Agree On

I still have not mastered my mother’s recipe for hummus so I will not post it on here yet. I will post instead a wonderful local comfort-food that is delicious, nutritious, and warms up the soul. Regardless of who you are or where you come from.

A heaping plate of shakshouka

But we little people should all have this in the back of our minds:

“It’s vegetarian. It’s healthy. It’s beans.”

It can be simpler.

A skillet of shashouka

Hopefully for our children it will be simpler. And kinder. And more graceful.

Hot, steamy shakshouka

May peace and quiet return soon to our beautiful area, our beautiful Middle East.

We ate it.

**Update: Just a day after posting this, I found out that the Shakshouka dish at a local Jerusalem restaurant was chosen by Lonely Planet as one of the top-ten world-class dishes! Just another proof that I bring you guys only the best from my kitchen.**

Shakshoukah:

Serves: 4 (1 egg per person)
Estimated Time: 15 minutes prep + 15 minute cook
Kosher Classification: Neutral

Ingredients:

4 eggs
8 ripe tomatoes
1/2 cup tomato paste
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 to 2 cups random vegetables (think chopped spinach, mushrooms, finely chopped carrots, celery, zucchini – anything that is soft or cut small enough to become soft).
A bit of oil, for sauteeing.
red chilli pepper flakes – optional
za’atar – optional
salt and pepper to taste.

Method:

Start off by chopping and slicing all of the vegetables according to the ingredients list: chop the onions and tomatoes, slice the garlic thinly, chop the random vegetables that are already soft, and if they are relatively hard (like carrots or peppers) – chop them finely.

Chopped onion for shakshoukaChop tomatoes for shakshoukaSlice garlic for shakshoukaChop random veggies for shakshouka

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add oil and saute the onions.

Sauteing onions for shakshouka

Add the sliced garlic and continue sauteing, watching carefully that it does not burn (garlic sautes much faster than onion, and because you’ve sliced it so thinly it can burn very fast.

Adding the garlic and sauteing for shakshouka

Next, add your choice of random vegetables – I used a lovely red bell pepper – and saute until it softens a bit. If your veggies are extremely fine, like spinach or kale, you can add them after the tomatoes so that they won’t “wilt” completely.

Add bell pepper for shakshoukaSaute bell pepper for shakshouka

Add the chopped tomatoes, stir, and cook covered until the tomatoes soften a little more.

Adding tomatoes for shakshoukaSauteing tomatoes for shakshouka

Once the tomatoes are soft, add the tomato paste and spices and stir until thoroughly mixed.

Add 1/2 cup tomato pasteAdding tomato paste for shakshoukaMixed in tomato paste

I like my shakshouka spicy, so I add chili flakes. I also add za’atar – a wonderful spice mix that is very common here in Israel but unfortunately not so easy to come by in America. If you are in the states and feeling adventurous, try finding it in spice stores or ethnic markets.

Chili flakes for shakshoukaZa'atar for shakshoukaAdding za'atar to shakshouka

With your wooden spoon, make a small hole in the sauce, on one side of the saucepan. Break the egg into it, keeping the yolk intact, and repeat for all for eggs.

Make a small hole in the sauceBreak the egg into the hole in the sauceRepeat for all four eggs

If you find it difficult to keep the yolk from breaking in “real-time”, you can first break the egg carefully into a small cup and then pour it into the little sauce bed you’ve made for it.

One egg at a time

All that’s left to do now is keep cooking the eggs until they are just the way you like them. If you want them super soft and gooey, cook them uncovered. If you like the yolks a bit soft but not  really runny, cooked covered until they begin to change their color and become just a bit more opaque. And if you like them fully cooked, cook covered until they completely change their color into powdery yellow.

Enjoy this treat for a lazy breakfast or brunch, a quick dinner, or even lunch (if you are home at lunchtime!). Shakshouka is served in the skillet in which it was prepared, and, much like happiness, is best when shared with others – so while it’s totally possible to modify this to serve only one person, I don’t recommend it. Eat it with warm pita bread, scooping up the chunky tomato sauce with ripped pita pieces. Goes (very) well with an Israeli salad.

**A bigThank You to my wonderful friends, Nir and Liron, for letting me use their awesome camera for this post!**

Best shared with others

In A Nutshell:

  1. Chop and slice all vegetables according to the ingredients list.
  2. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add oil and saute 1 medium onion (chopped).
  3. Add 3 garlic cloves (sliced) and saute, add 1-2 cups chopped random vegetables and saute, and then add 8 ripe tomatoes (chopped) and keep sauteing for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add 1/2 cup tomato paste and spices and stir thoroughly.
  5. Make a small round hole in the sauce and break an egg into it (keeping the yolk intact). Repeat for all four eggs.
  6. Cook until desired egg consistency is reached – uncovered for runny yolks, covered for a short time for soft yolks, and covered for a long time for hard, fully cooked yolks.
  7. Serve with Israeli salad and fresh, warm pita bread.
The world is a canvas, and food is my paint.

The world is a canvas, and food is my paint.

2 thoughts on “Shakshoukah: A Food We Can All Agree On

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