Saturday, March 12, 2016

Who Can Resist a Recipe Called Shakshuka?

Not me.  When I recently saw a New York Times recipe for this Middle Eastern dish, which I’d never heard of, I was intrigued.  A few hours later I opened my daily email from The Guardian, a British newspaper, and what should be featured but a big story about Shakshuka.

Popular for breakfast in Israel, Shakshuka may have an exotic name but
it doesn’t require exotic ingredients—unless you think tomatoes, onions, garlic, bell peppers, eggs, paprika and chard are exotic.  Okay, chard, which is a leafy green vegetable sold in bunches, is sort of exotic.  Fresh spinach works just as well.  I know because I tried it both ways. 

I can’t remember the last time I made a new recipe twice in two weeks.  Shakshuka is easy, cheap and, most importantly, both Bart and I like it.  We practically licked the plates clean.  It may become my new emergency dinner meal.

Shakshuka – serves 2 (adapted from the New York Times) 

1 tablespoon olive oil 
1 small onion, diced 
1/2 red bell pepper, diced 
1 teaspoon chopped garlic 
3 roma (plum) tomatoes, skin removed and cut in half, or 15-ounce can diced tomatoes  
1 zucchini, diced 
1 teaspoon paprika 
1 sprig fresh rosemary (optional) 
1/2 teaspoon sugar 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon thyme 
1/4 teaspoon black pepper 
1 bunch chard, center ribs removed and discarded, or 1/2 pound fresh spinach  
3-4 large eggs 
2 tablespoons chopped parsley 
Hot sauce (optional) 
Hot cooked rice (optional)  
Use a cast iron frying pan or casserole dish that can be heated on the stove top as well as in the oven.  Add the olive oil and begin heating over medium heat.  Add the onion, red bell pepper and garlic and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables start to soften.  
Add the tomatoes, zucchini, paprika, rosemary (if using), sugar, salt, thyme and black pepper and stir to incorporate.  Turn down the heat to low, cover and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. 
Begin preheating the oven to 375 degrees. 
Meanwhile, if you are using chard, half-fill a medium pot with water and begin heating over high heat.  Cut the chard leaves into 4 or 5 pieces.  When the water comes to a boil, add the chard pieces and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until they have shrunk and softened.  Drain and set aside until the tomato mixture is finished cooking. Remove and discard the rosemary (if used). 
If you are using spinach, add the leaves to the tomato mixture after about 10 minutes and cover again.  The spinach will shrink as it cooks. When it’s done, stir the mixture.  
If you are using chard, stir it into the tomato mixture once it has finished cooking. 
Make small indentations in the vegetable mixture and gently break the eggs into them.  Sprinkle with parsley. Place the frying pan or casserole in the oven and bake until the yolks are just set, about 11 minutes. 
Serve immediately and pass the hot sauce.  Serve over rice if desired. 
NOTE: Other Shakshuka recipes suggest adding cubes of cooked potato, eggplant and artichoke hearts.