Shakshuka is as old as the hills. And in Northern Africa and the Middle East, that's friggin' old. Some say it's a Jewish thing. Some say it’s regional. But if you peep a breakfast table, you'll find it. This dish alone is spurring me to furrow away some sheckls to visit the Moroccan versions in person along with their tile work that I often daydream about. But like the BBQ sauce of the south or the "best" way to make a peach cobbler, if you ask a hundred grandmothers from Istanbul to Jerusalem to Casablanca, you'll get a hundred variations on this popular traditional feast. I got obsessed with the stuff last year and read about that many recipes. I've made my way through a bunch, channeling my inner Zayde, and I believe this version is the perfect edition for a Portland Apothecary Summer.
You might be tempted to bake it until the egg yolks are solid all the way through. Don't.
California Jewess Shakshuka
5 fat ripe tomatoes
1 red onion
1 Anaheim chili
1 bell pepper (I use yellow here)
5 cloves garlic
1c fresh basil, separated
2T olive oil
1T ground cumin
1t smoked, sweet or hot paprika, depending on your preference
1T cider vinegar
1t smoked sea salt
Before you begin, make sure you have a heavy, oven-safe vessel. I like to use a good ol’ cured iron skillet, but a ceramic dutch oven works or even pyrex, but I go for the Ye Olde Feel as much as possible with this. Preheat your oven to 375.Now, coarsely chop up all your tomatoes, save all the seeds and juice and get those into a bowl. After those are prepped, heat your olive oil over a medium flame and add in your chopped onions and shallot. When those are translucent, around 7 minutes, add your garlic spices, smoked salt, half of your basil, chopped fine, and your cider vinegar. Now let that all cook together for about 8 more minutes. Add your chopped pepper and chili. When you slice up the chili, especially those of you going for spicier varieties, wear gloves or be careful not to touch your eyes when working with spicy peppers. Their oils are no joke. Let those soften. By now your kitchen should smell incredible. Finally add in your tomatoes and wait until the whole thing is bubbling. It should be right at the brim of your skillet.
Here's the fun part. Make little wells for the eggs and crack them into the pan. I use four but people often like a lot more. Transfer the whole thing to the oven and bake on 375 for 10-12 minutes. The whites should be firm but the yolks will be runny and perfect inside. Serve topped with the rest of your basil sliced into pretty ribbons.
Like I said, there are about a billion and ten ways to make this and here are a few ideas from all the wonderful people out there who inspired me. You can use some and/or all of these at your whim. Add Feta. Add in thyme and coriander. Use spicier peppers and less garlic. Swap out the basil for cilantro. Add a dollop of honey to the sauce or a different vinegar. Shred cheese on top. Include some cooked chickpeas. Have a great time with this one. It's a keeper for the long haul.