I love that almost all cultures have their convenience foods, the foods that hungry students, flurried mothers, lonely clerks and old married couples can all make with pantry and refrigerator staples. Kimchi chigae and thayir sadham, avgolemono and chilaquiles—all of these sprang from their respective cultures’ bulwark ingredients.
Convenience foods don’t present a challenge to put together, but they aren’t necessarily dishes that are swiftly made: some of the very best ones I know bubble for close to an hour before they’re just right. Shakshuka, one of my favorite discoveries, falls into that camp.
I first discovered shakshuka last year, when I lived in South Korea. There, every morning before walking to work, I made myself a cup of bori-cha — barley tea — and read The New York Times online. Wednesday mornings were my favorite, for obvious reasons. One Wednesday, I read an article about the entrance of Israeli street foods into restaurant menus, and stopped at a picture glowing arrestingly with red, yellow, and white. I had it for breakfast Thursday.
Shakshuka is a fiendishly simple dish to make. Onions, garlic, jalapenos and bell peppers go into the skillet for a quick saute. Tomatoes and a few spices follow. Low heat caramelizes the sauce into a viscous, delicious glaze: cracking eggs into it cooks them to a custard’s smoothness.
Traditional accompaniments of halloumi cheese or za’atar are fantastic but not strictly necessary.
Shakshuka Adapted from Ori Apple [via nytimes.com, and available here]
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon minced, seeded jalapeño
2 red or green bell peppers, roughly chopped
8 fresh plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 28-ounce cans peeled Italian plum tomatoes, strained (juices reserved) and roughly chopped
½ teaspoon hot paprika or cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon salt, more to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, more to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup vegetable broth
4 large eggs
Za’atar, for serving
Warm pita bread, for serving.
1. Place a large sauté pan over medium heat, and heat oil. Add onion and sauté until lightly browned. Add garlic, jalapeño and bell peppers, and sauté 2 minutes more. Add fresh tomatoes and canned tomatoes. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.
2. Add hot paprika, sweet paprika, turmeric, salt, pepper and sugar. Stir for 1 minute. Add 1 cup canned tomato juice, and ½ cup vegetable broth. Bring to a full boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered until mixture is very thick and has little liquid left, about 1 hour; stir occasionally to make sure vegetables do not stick to bottom of pan, and add more tomato juice or vegetable broth as needed.
3. To serve, season to taste with salt and pepper. Gently crack eggs into pan, taking care not to break yolks. Simmer until whites start to solidify but yolks remain runny, 6 to 8 minutes. Ladle equal portions of vegetables and eggs into two serving bowls. Sprinkle with za’atar to taste, and serve with warm pita bread.