Thursday, June 6, 2013

Shakshuka

Shakshuka recipe


Much to his chagrin, Mr SSS came to the dinner table last night greeted by a  basket of crusty white bread, two forks and two small skillets overflowing with food. One small skillet centered on his place mat and one on mine.

I understood his reaction to this non-conformist set up as we do typically eat from dinner plates. I outlined 3 important points for him to consider before he started judging: 1) I can't turn down a recipe that comes from afar which bears a name I am unable to pronounce; 2) I can't pass up a recipe with sauteed pepper and onions; 3) Any recipe that contains poached eggs I make a beeline toward.  And that pretty much sums up this recipe... with the addition of some saffron, thyme and cayenne pepper. Shakshuka was destined to land on our table sooner or later. And as for the proper way to serve it, I explained, I had no idea. I just knew that if I transferred the neat contents of these skillets to dinnerware I would have disturbed the poached eggs and annihilated the presentation. Mr SSS took this all in and with an open-mind and sense of adventure dug in with great voracity. Flavor trumps all else in our household every time.

Now before I tell you we are both hooked on this dish, which I found to be hearty enough for dinner, I will predict that right about now my Jewish friends are giggling about our "new" discovery - this magic potion called Shashuka, Apparently this newfangled dish was dreamed up in the Ottoman Empire and over time has spread to Northern Africa and Israel where Shashuka is a staple brunch/lunch dish. There are countless variations to this dish but I have to say that I wouldn't change anything about this recipe the next time I prepare it. Which will be very soon. Because we are both hooked.

Shakshuka

1/4 t cumin seeds
6 T olive oil
1 large sweet onion, halved and sliced
1 red bell pepper cut into thin strips
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips
2 t brown sugar
1 bay leaf
leaves from 3 sprigs of thyme
1 T chopped parsley
1 T chopped cilantro. plus extra for garnish
2 jumbo ripe hothouse or beefsteak tomatoes or 3 large tomatoes, roughly chopped 
generous 1/2 t saffron threads
a few pinches of cayenne pepper, to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
water, as needed
4 fresh eggs

In a large skillet dry roast cumin seeds over high heat for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add oil and onions. Saute for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the peppers, sugar and herbs and continue cooking for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the tomatoes, saffron, cayenne and some salt and pepper. Add water as needed to get the consistency of pasta sauce {my tomatoes were juicy so I only added 3 T of water}. Taste and adjust seasoning - it should be potent and  flavorful. 

Remove the bay leaf and divide pepper mixture among two small 6" skillets. Place the skillets on medium heat, make two gaps in each skillet and carefully break an egg into each gap. Sprinkle with salt, cover and reduce heat slightly. Cook until the eggs are just set - whites firm and yolks runny {original instructions estimate 10-12 minutes but my cook time was about 4 minutes}. Sprinkle with additional cilantro and serve.

Serves a very generous 2 {or with a small green side salad, 4 is more like it}.
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Source: Adapted from Plenty, Yotam Ottolenghi

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