Shakshuka is no longer a novelty in America, and everyone, from a dedicated food truck in Manhattan to a small market in Pittsburgh, is serving their version of this North African dish.
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The original shakshuka, which was introduced into the Israeli kitchen by Tunisian Jews, is a dish of eggs cooked in a thick, concentrated tomato and sweet and hot paprika sauce. At its best, the red sauce is wiped clean off the plate with thick slices of bread and you get a fulfilling messy meal in a skillet. But to make it that good, you’ll need lots of patience. Cooking down the tomatoes takes its time and cannot be rushed.
Here’s a lighter version of shakshuka that takes advantage of the flavorful heirloom tomatoes that are in season right now. Since it’s thinner than the traditional shakshuka, I serve it over a toasted slice of sourdough bread that soaks all the goodness, till the last drop.
Heirloom tomato shakshuka with onion-za’atar salad
Heirloom tomatoes make this dish extra pretty and full of flavor. But after paying $15 for four pounds of tomatoes this week, I will be the first to suggest you use any good, ripe and sweet tomatoes you can find. Hopefully it will cost a little less.
And yes, for $15 you can buy about 35 pounds of excellent tomatoes in Israel.
Za’atar is an Arab spice mix and is available at Middle Eastern and kosher markets and online. Some health food markets in the U.S. hold their own versions of za’atar, but I’ve found that in general the ones from the Middle East taste the best.
For the shakshuka:
1 poblano or sweet pepper
2 jalapeño or any hot pepper (optional)
4 lb. heirloom or ripe sweet tomatoes
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
2 minced garlic cloves
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
For the onion-za’atar salad:
½ red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons za’atar
¼ cup chopped mint leaves
½ cup chopped cilantro leaves
6 thick slices sourdough bread or ciabatta, preferably day old
1. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with two layers of aluminum foil, arrange Poblano and jalapeno on it and roast for 20 minutes, until skin is charred. Flip peppers after 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand for about 20 minutes to cool down. Peel peppers, remove seeds and slice thinly. Keep aside.
2. Keep oven at the same heat and bake bread slices until nicely toasted, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
3. Slice tomatoes into thin wedges, keeping all juices.
4. Heat oil in a large non stick pan over medium-high heat until very hot. Sprinkle sugar all over pan, wait for 5 seconds, and add tomatoes at once. Sprinkle minced garlic and salt, and continue to cook, shaking pan from time to time, but not stirring, for 10 minutes. Add sliced pepper, stir and cook for another 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed.
5. Crack open eggs into tomato sauce and cook for another 8 minutes, until yolks are only half done.
6. In the meantime prepare the onion-za’atar salad. Put onion and za’atar in a small bowl and rub with your hands. Add mint and cilantro and mix gently.
7. Put a slice of toasted bread at the bottom of each bowl, spoon shakshuka with one egg on each, sprinkle with onion-za’atar salad and serve.