I had a fun treat this week that inspired this recipe for Shakshuka. My friend Jim Solomon invited me to his restaurant, The Fireplace, for an Israeli brunch, prepared by chef Einat Admony. Knowing that I have a special interest in food from other countries, Jim was kind enough let me observe all the preparations in the kitchen. The menu included hummus, tabouleh, roasted squash, and labne. But what intrigued me the most was the recipe for eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce.
Einat is originally from Tel Aviv, but now lives in NYC where she runs two critically-acclaimed restaurants – Taïm and Balaboosta. Her cooking is as colorful as her personality. As I watched her chop and toss and stir, it all looked and smelled so good. It made me want to travel to Israel, and to New York to eat at one of her restaurants.
In addition to the delicious brunch, guests were given the recipes to take home. I couldn’t wait to get cooking. The concept of Shakshuka is very simple, but the particular spices that Einat uses are something special. And I love the added kick from the jalapeños.
After you spoon the sauce into a casserole, make small depressions in it with the back of a spoon so when you crack the eggs on top, they settle in and stay put.
Shakshuka is an adaptable dish. I’ve seen variations that include cheese, eggplant, sausage or potatoes. Einat showed us another version in which the eggs were poached on top of a bed of fresh sautéed greens. I opted to add cubes of fresh feta cheese – just tucked them in around the eggs.
This is any easy dish to cook for a crowd in a large casserole or skillet. But if you have a bunch of smaller oven-to-table bowls or casseroles, baking individual portions is a fun idea. I tried it both ways.
Serve this for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. And don’t forget the crusty bread to soak up every last bit of delicious sauce.
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1½ teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground caraway seed (or buy whole seeds and grind them)
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium yellow onions, chopped (about 3 cups)
- 1 large red or green bell pepper, roughly chopped
- 1 large or 2 small jalapeno peppers, seeded, ribs removed, and finely minced
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 5 tablespoons minced garlic (6-7 large cloves)
- 1 28 ounce can whole plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
- 2 packed cups spinach leaves, roughly chopped
- Eggs and cheese
- 6-8 eggs
- 5-6 ounces feta cheese cut into ½-inch cubes.
- Spices Measure all the spices into a small bowl. Set aside.
- Make the sauce Preheat oven to 375ºF. Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot or dutch oven. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 8 minutes. (turn heat down to medium-low if they start to brown) Add bell pepper and jalapeno, and cook until softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add tomato paste and garlic and cook, stirring, for a minute or two, until tomato paste is incorporated. Add canned tomatoes and spices. stir through. Turn heat down to a gentle simmer and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens. Mix in the chopped spinach and simmer for 5 minutes more. Remove the bay leaf. Sauce can be made ahead and kept in the fridge or frozen. Reheat sauce before proceeding.
- Add eggs and cheese, and bake Spoon sauce into a large, shallow, oven-proof skillet or casserole. Using the back of a tablespoon, make 6-8 evenly-spaced depressions in the sauce. Crack an egg carefully into each one, keeping the yolk in tact. Press the cheese cubes evenly into the sauce, between the egg yokes. Place the skillet in the middle of the oven and cook just until the egg whites turn opaque, 20-30 minutes. Keep watch every few minutes, starting at 15 minutes.
- Alternatively, it can be cooked in individual oven-safe dishes. To do this, divide the sauce equally between 4 oven-safe dishes. Make two depressions in each and crack an egg into each depression. Tuck feta cubes in evenly. Bake just as above.
- Serve with crusty bread. Enjoy!