shakshuka!

I’m from the Catskills. Forestburgh, NY to be exact. A town with one streetlight, one store that multitasks as the town post office and gas station and a population hovering around 850.  When you’re from this neck of the woods, you’ve probably used Dirty Dancing as a reference when someone asks where you’re from; you also worked at Kutsher’s or the Concord or some other resort past its heyday;* you and your friends, Jew and Gentile alike, know the words to a Hebrew prayer (“Baruch atah Adonai elohaynu …”); and you also know at least the beginning to “Juicy” by Notorious B.I.G.

As an honorary Jew, I love rugelach and latkes and challah and falafels and hummus and smoked fish and matzoh ball soup – because they’re foods I grew up with. Today’s recipe, shakshuka, is a typical Israeli breakfast food. It’s the kind of dish that motivates you to pop into your dear old Israeli neighbor’s house before noon in order to start the day right. Shakshuka has all of the things that I love: tomatoes, greens, eggs, cumin, paprika, a touch of sweetness and some heat from the jalapeños.  The original recipe** calls for adding sugar; I added honey instead and used roasted tomatoes to add nature’s sweetness. For my Spanish readers, this dish is a lot like a pisto. Cocinamos!

Ingredients:

(serves 3-4)

  • 6 roma tomatoes
  •  1/2 of one (28 oz) can peeled tomatoes (recommended: Luigi Vitelli or Cento)
  • 1 medium Spanish onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 of a jalapeño pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic – sliced
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp Hungarian paprika
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground caraway seeds
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 2 cups fresh swiss chard or spinach
  • 3 tbsp EVOO
  • 4 eggs
  • cilantro

Instructions:

  • (Do ahead) Preheat oven at 300 degrees fahrenheit. Quarter tomatoes (lengthwise) and toss in 1 1/2 tbsp EVOO. Roast for an hour or until some of the tomatoes are turning brown and crisp.
  • Add remaining EVOO to large pan over medium heat; when oil is hot, add onions and peppers.
  • When onions are golden, add roasted tomatoes and used a wooden spoon or spatula to crush them.
  • Allow to cook for 5 minutes; add garlic and jalapeño.
  • Once the garlic is golden, add canned tomatoes, honey and spices; stir and simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Wash chard and tear into bite sized pieces; lay on top of tomato mixture, cover and let cook for 15 minutes.
  • 10 minutes before serving, break eggs into a bowl; turn heat to medium and gently pour the eggs, one at a time, into the tomato mixture. Add a splash of water and let steam until whites are completely cooked.
  • Served with cilantro leaves and pita or challah bread. Also recommended: a dollop of greek yogurt.

*As seniors in high school, my best friend and I spent our Saturday nights taking photographs of hotel guests at Kutsher’s and the Raleigh (think: The Shining) so we could wake up Sunday morning and sell them in those little keychain viewer things.

** Balaboosta – the amazing book of Mediterranean recipes by Einat Admony. I LOVE this cookbook.

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