Last week my mom came out to Pittsburgh for her annual solo visit (she’s usually accompanied by my dad), and per usual, we cooked up quite the storm in the kitchen. I decided to use my Jerusalem cookbook. As I’ve only made one thing from it (it’s a stunning cookbook but some of the recipes are definitely more on the intimidating/time consuming side), I thought having a sous chef warranted it being taken out and used a second time.
Friday night’s meal ended up being vegetarian themed which is something I never mind and also enjoy. There was a delicious bean salad that was served cold. There were latkes (this was my second time making potato pancakes and while these came out better than my first attempt, they were still an ordeal to make and weren’t exactly perfect, so in short, I’m done with them). And then there was the dish with the extremely exotic sounding name-shakshuka (and because I love languages, its name in Arabic is شكشوكة; and its name in Hebrew שקשוקה). Shakshuka is a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, peppers, onions, and spices. It’s the breakfast of champions in North Africa as well as in Israel (the dish is believed to be Tunisian in origin and introduced to Israeli cuisine by Tunisian Jews who had immigrated there).
Recipes vary but the one I used called for harissa which is a spicy North African condiment (essentially a hot chili pepper paste) whose ingredients include roasted red peppers, serrano peppers and other hot chili peppers and spices and herbs such as garlic paste, coriander seed or caraway, as well as some vegetable or olive oil for preservation. Thankfully Pittsburgh is home to a great Middle Eastern food store in the city’s Strip District (Labad’s) which had harissa (both of the small and large varieties) as well as many other items that would fulfill any Middle Eastern foodie need.
As someone who loves breakfast for dinner, shakshuka was a terrific main course. The recipe was easy to make, took very little preparation time, and offered an amazing result (from a tasting standpoint). I’m not sure I’d want to eat something so spicy for breakfast, but for an evening meal, it was fabulous.
recipe adapted from Jerusalem, a cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons harissa (can be found in Middle Eastern food stores)
2 teaspoons tomato paste
2 large red peppers, diced
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
5 large, very ripe tomatoes, chopped (canned are also fine)
4 large eggs
1/2 cup thick plain yogurt
-Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the harissa, tomato paste, peppers, garlic, cumin, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Stir and cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes to allow the peppers to soften. Add the tomatoes, bring to a gentle simmer, and cook for 10 more minutes until the sauce thickens.
-Make 4 little dips in the sauce, gently break the eggs, and carefully pour each into its own dip. Simmer gently for 8-10 minutes, until the eggs are set. You can cover the pan with a lid if you wish to hasten the process. Remove from the heat, let sit for a couple of minutes to settle, then spoon into individual plates and serve with yogurt.