an egg feast from the middle east.

I often dabble in vegetarian and vegan food, but I’ve realized that my love of eggs and cheese (especially together) is a big reason I could never commit to a fully vegan lifestyle. Vegetarian has been the somewhat accidental food mode in our house lately, as it’s been so warm here in Northern California that I can’t even think about making something heavy with meat in it.  I’ve been perusing through many vegetarian cookbooks to get inspiration for our meals lately – there has been so much wonderful produce at our local farmers markets that I don’t even know where to begin!  After taking a look at the contents of my refrigerator and cupboards one morning, I had to make shakshouka, which was a dish that has been appearing on a lot of brunch menus here in California (both in SF and LA).  Though this dish does require actual cooking, the flavors are so fresh and lively that you won’t mind the heat of the kitchen too much!

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Shakshouka (shakshuka, شكشوكة‎ in Arabic) is a dish made of eggs poached in a tomato sauce.  Like many foods from the Middle East/Mediterranean/North African area, the exact origins are unknown, but it is believed to be from Tunisia or Algeria.  The framework of shakshouka is pretty simple – onions, tomato sauce, bell pepper, spices, with eggs – and can be adapted to dozens of variations by the addition of other ingredients like cheese, additional vegetables, and my personal favorite, smoky roasted eggplant.  I took a combination of recipes for shakshouka to make the one below (check out Ottolenghi, the NY Times, and David Lebovitz‘s versions).

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Shakshouka

You will need:

28 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes, or about six very fresh, ripe tomatoes
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon – 1 teaspoon of harissa, depending on how spicy you like it (optional)
2 slices of preserved lemon (optional but very highly recommended)
1/2 cup of chopped roasted eggplant (optional)
salt, black pepper
pinch of saffron
1 bay leaf
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
4-6 large eggs
olive oil
Chopped cilantro or parsley, for serving

In an ovenproof skillet, add a few tablespoons of olive oil and heat gently over medium-high heat.  Add in the cumin, turmeric, saffron, and onions.  Sauté for a few minutes until the onion starts to wilt.  Add red bell pepper, and continue cooking.  Add tomato sauce, bay leaf, paprika, and a big pinch of salt and black pepper, stir well, and bring to a simmer.  Add your preserved lemon and roasted eggplant, if using.  Give it a stir and cover, simmer for about 15 minutes. Taste the sauce, and adjust seasonings.  Remove the pan from heat, and make a few wells in the sauce (as many eggs as you are using) and crack an egg into each well.

The next step is purely your choice – you can either oven bake them, or continue to cook on the stove.  If you are going to bake them: 375F for 7-12 minutes, until the whites are set.  If you finish on the stove, cover them with a lid and cook gently for 10-12 minutes, until the eggs are set.  (Personally, I like baking them, as since the yolks won’t get covered over in white as they do when you continue to cook on the stove.)  When they’ve set, remove from the oven, sprinkle generously with feta and cilantro or parsley, and serve with flatbread (or tortillas!).

Did I mention this makes an excellent dinner too?  What’s your favorite egg dish?  Tell me in the comments below!

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fiendishly fond of cooking, SoulCycle, Pilates, green smoothies, and Korean spas.

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