Shakshuka

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One of the problems with cooking almost all of my own food is that after a while, all my cooking starts to feel the same. I start to use the same vegetables, the same flavors, the same combinations of foods. For a while, that’s fine – I know what works for me and keeping my cooking similar is an easy way to get good, healthy food. But every now and then, I need something new and exciting to shake things up a little. Shakshuka is one of those things.

The recipe is originally from North Africa but has become popular in Israel. It’s popular for good reason – shakshuka is wonderfully spicy, warm, and comforting. It’s healthy too, with enough flavor to snap me out of a cooking rut. Plus, the name is awesome. After my first bite, I knew this was a recipe worth saving.

My roommate and I made shakshuka for brunch last week. We cooked two of the eggs for brunch and made the other two in the leftover sauce for dinner a few days later. I’ve heard that in Israel, some families make a huge batch of sauce and freeze it in individual portions to use later, which is a great idea.

One of the nice things about shakshuka is that you can control the level of spice to fit your individual preferences. Spicy food can be an incredibly divisive thing – people either love it or hate it. Personally, I fall in the former camp.

Interestingly enough, “spicy” isn’t actually a taste but rather the activation of pain receptors on your tongue. One of my roommates, who hates all things spicy, took this as proof that my love for spice is unnatural and that I have masochistic taste buds. She may be correct, but I see it as more of an example of how taste preferences can be changed. Unlike sweet food, no one is born liking spicy food but many people grow to love spice as they get older.

Regardless of your feelings on spicy food, give Shakshuka a try. At any level of spice, it is delicious.

Shakshuka

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen (http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2010/04/shakshuka/)

Time: 45 min (10 min once sauce is made)

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 serrano peppers, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped (can substitute jalapenos for a less spicy sauce or use fewer peppers)
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp. paprika
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • salt
  • 4 eggs
  • feta
  • parsley, chopped
  • bread

Instructions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add chiles and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 6-8 minutes, until soft and starting to brown.
  2. Add garlic, cumin, and paprika. Cook, stirring frequently, until garlic softens (about 2 more minutes).
  3. Add tomatoes and their juice, along with about 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat until sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. You may have to add a little more water if the sauce gets too thick. I like to bash it up a bit with a spoon to break up larger pieces of tomato and garlic. Salt to taste.
  4. Crack eggs into sauce so they are evenly distributed. If you’re worried about your egg cracking abilities and want to avoid getting shell in your sauce, crack each egg into a small bowl first and then pour it into the sauce. Cover pot and cook eggs until yolk is just set, about 5 minutes. Feel free to tweak this if you like a runnier or firmer yolk.
  5. Spoon into bowls and sprinkle with feta and chopped parsley. Serve with warm bread.
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