Shakshouka: what is there not to love?
This egg-and-tomato dish nails the sweet spot between interesting (goodbye, bland weekend fry-ups; hello, cumin and za’atar) and quick (because one shouldn’t have to work too hard for the first meal of the day). It can be weekend brunch or weeknight dinner. It can be a survivor meal: so long as you have a can of tomatoes, eggs, an onion, cumin, and pepper flakes, you’re good to go. But you can also do it up: add red peppers, greens, cheese, and more spices. It bursts with umami, thanks to the tomatoes. It involves runny egg yolks—or not, if that’s not your thing. Its dregs beg to be sopped up with good bread or toasted pita. It can be scaled down to serve just one or up to serve a crowd.
Try this just once–and then watch it become part of your repertoire.
Ingredients (essential ingredients marked with an asterisk)
2 tablespoons olive oil*
1 onion, sliced*
2 bell peppers, thinly sliced or chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt*
many turns of freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed, or 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin*
1 teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
a pinch of dried chili flakes
2 14-oz cans diced or crushed tomatoes*
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup loosely packed greens (I use up whatever spinach or kale is lurking in my produce drawer), coarsely chopped
feta or goat cheese, to taste, in chunks
1 teaspoon za’atar
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet with a lid over medium-high heat. Add the onion and bell peppers and sauté until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Stir in the salt, pepper, and spices. Cook for another minute, stirring constantly, to release their fragrance.
Add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Decrease the heat to medium and cook until the sauce has thickened somewhat but is still loose enough to move if you shake the pan around, about 8 minutes. Stir in the chopped greens.
Press a few chunks of feta or goat cheese into the tomato sauce, or if what you have is more broken up, just sprinkle on top.
Use a utensil to make four indentations in the sauce. Crack an egg into each indentation, so each egg is sitting in a little crater of tomato sauce. Bring the heat down so the sauce is at a very gentle simmer and cook until the eggs are done to your liking. (I like whites set but the yolks very runny; this takes about 5 minutes–you can poke the whites with your finger or jiggle the pan a little to see if they’re set to your liking.) You can cover the pan to speed up the process if you wish. When done, remove from heat and sprinkle with za’atar.
Serve with crusty bread or toasted pita (or pita cut in wedges, tossed with olive oil, salt, and more za’atar, then baked in a 450F degree oven for a few minutes—but you do you).
This can be scaled up or down. If you want to serve more people, use the biggest frying pan you’ve got, add some extra tomatoes, and roughly up all of the ingredients by 50 percent–including the eggs. If you want to just make breakfast or dinner for one, use a smaller pan, one tin of tomatoes, a bit less spices, and only one or two eggs.
I usually make it as written above, eat half for brunch, and then eat the other half the next day, gently removing the eggs before reheating the sauce in the microwave, so I don’t lose their runny yolks by zapping them.