In an effort to share more of our very most every day meals, the ones I throw together with whatever’s left in the fridge, or the staples I can make with my eyes half closed at the end of a long day, I’ve started posting occasional short, simple posts just about these meals. I call it vær så god, Norwegian for “bon appetit.”
“Do you shakshuka??” I don’t know how it started, but I say this to myself every single time I make shakshuka, and then I giggle like I’ve just come up with something really original and hilarious. Every time! And it still makes me giggle. Which is an impressive feat since I make shakshuka virtually on a weekly basis.
But that does bring me to the question: do you shakshuka? If you do, good. Keep at it. If you don’t, you should! Shakshuka is a Middle Eastern – particularly Israeli, I believe – dish of eggs poached in a complex, spicy tomato sauce, sometimes with other vegetables too, but it doesn’t have to be. Shakshuka has gotten a decent amount of press in cookbooks, newspapers, and magazines over the past several years, and I don’t know that I have anything new to add to all of those compiled reflections on this simple, and simply fantastic, egg dish. Just to say, you can make it as simple or as complicated as you wish, and if you wish simple, then all you need is 15 or so minutes to get a meal on the table.
Because, if you believe you can have eggs as the centerpiece of dinner, and let me assure you, you can! then this makes a perfect speedy and wholesome midweek meal, just add a simple green salad and/or a hunk of crusty bread for mopping up the leftover tomato juice pooled with runny egg that gathers in the bottom of your bowl, and which is pretty much the best part of the meal.
You can also make shakshuka for breakfast or lunch, and believe me, I do! If I’m making it for breakfast, I often go absurdly simple and don’t even fry up an onion (and if I’m barely awake, which definitely happens sometimes, I don’t even use garlic, I just saute the spices in oil and dump in the eggs, and it’s still really good). Some people sprinkle their shakshuka with feta, but I prefer to plop spoonfuls of plain yogurt over mine. The yogurt is smooth and cooling against the warm tomato, and you have no idea how good yogurt is next to a runny egg until you’ve tried it. So try it!
Vær så god!
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 2 large cloves of garlic, chopped
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 red bell pepper or small eggplant, chopped into small pieces (optional, but recommended)
- ½ tsp. ground cumin
- 2 tsp. paprika
- a big pinch of ground coriander
- a pinch of cayenne pepper (use more or less depending on how spicy you like things)
- 1, 14-oz can of crushed tomatoes
- 4 eggs
- salt and pepper
- plain yogurt for garnish
- If you're using an eggplant, fry this separately first over medium heat until all of the pieces are softened. Sprinkle with salt and set aside. If not using eggplant, skip this step!
- In a frying pan that is small (about 9 or 10 inch diameter), but has high sides, heat the 2 Tbs. olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and the sliced bell pepper (if using). Cook, stirring, until the onion (and pepper) has softened, about 6 minutes.
- Stir in the garlic, cumin, paprika, coriander, and cayenne and cook for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant, then add the canned tomatoes and their juices along with a big pinch of salt and stir well (if you're using eggplant, add the cooked eggplant at this point as well). Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the tomatoes are well spiced and slightly sweetened.
- Crack the eggs over the tomato mixture so they are evenly spaced and sprinkle each egg with salt and pepper. Cover the pan again and cook until the eggs have set but the yolks are still wobbly and runny, about 5 minutes.
- Divide the eggs and tomato sauce between 2 or 4 shallow bowls, transferring the eggs carefully so they don't break in the process. Dot each bowl with a few spoonfuls of plain yogurt (Greek style or regular both work, though I tend to use the Greek style). If it's dinner, serve accompanied with a green salad, and some good bread, if you wish.