Sunday, April 18, 2010

Shakshuka: Eggs Poached in Spicy Tomato Sauce

I wish I had something inspirational to say about this next recipe, but truthfully, I don't.  I don't even have a photo to show you, sorry.  But I do have an easy, tasty recipe, so read on.  

I hadn't even heard of Shakshuka, an Israeli dish of eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce, until it was featured on Smitten Kitchen, an excellent cooking blog that I often read.  Although in Israel Shakshuka is traditionally served as a breakfast dish, for my American palate I thought it was much more well suited to dinner (I usually steer clear of anything more potent than Cheerios at breakfast).  I was enticed by the simple ingredient list and easy prep--the perfect meal for the end of a busy week.  

I tweaked the recipe just a bit, most notably in the number of servings.  Smitten Kitchen and Saveur, which originally published this recipe, claim that it serves 4-6, but Erik and polished off 2/3 of it on our own (hey, don't judge, it's mostly vegetables!).  However, I reduced the number of eggs accordingly, from the recommended 6 to 3, basically budgeting 1 egg per serving.  The diameter of the pan I used was smaller than the recommended 12 inches, so in my pan 3 eggs fit perfectly--any more would have just created a thick, egg-y layer instead of individually poached eggs.  I suppose that if you had a larger pan and used 2 eggs per person you could stretch the sauce a bit, but I liked mine saucy without too many eggs--healthier that way, right?  I also bumped up the amounts of cumin and garlic, because I simply can't get enough of those delicious flavors.  I wimped out on the jalapenos, however, and used only 2.  Without their seeds, jalapenos actually don't pack too much of a punch, so when I make this again I will use the recommended 3 jalapenos, or add a few seeds, since those are where most of the heat resides.  This is a forgiving and flexible recipe that's easy to prepare, so try it when you're in the mood for something easy, comforting, and full of flavor.

Shakshuka (Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
Serves 3 to 4 

* 1/4 cup olive oil
* 5 Anaheim chiles or 3 jalapeƱos, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
* 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
* 6 cloves garlic, crushed then sliced
* 1/2 Tablespoon ground cumin
* 1 Tablespoon paprika
* A 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
* 1/2 cup water
* Kosher salt, to taste
* 3-4 eggs, or more, if you feel so inclined
* 1/2 cup crumbed feta cheese
* 1 generous Tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
* Warm pitas, for serving

1. Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add chilis and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, and paprika, and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is soft, about 2 more minutes.
2. Crush the tomatoes.  You can do this by transferring them to the bowl and crushing them with your hands, or just crushing them as you add them to the skillet.  Either way, crush the tomatoes and add them, along with their liquid and 1/2 cup water to the skillet.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 20 minutes. Season with salt, to taste.

3. Crack eggs over sauce so that eggs are evenly distributed across sauce’s surface. Cover and cook until yolks are barely set, about 5 minutes.  (Obviously you can simmer for less time if you prefer a runny yolk, like Erik does).  Using a spoon, baste the whites of the eggs with tomato mixture, being careful not to disturb the yolk.  Sprinkle shakshuka with feta and parsley and serve with warm pitas, cut into quarters, for dipping.  Enjoy!

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