Make It Better Cover Recipe: Julie’s Sunday Morning Shakshuka

Photo by Julie Chernoff.

Shakshuka, a vegetable and egg stew, is all the rage right now. Many people think of it as an Israeli dish, but it actually originated in Tunisia. It is redolent with the flavors of cumin, oregano and harissa, a spicy North African pepper paste most famous for it’s supporting role as a condiment for couscous and tagine. I ordered shakshuka once while out for brunch in Boston a few years ago, and I was hooked. Not only was it amazingly flavorful, but it was just so darn photogenic!

Make It Better May/June 2017The story behind that photograph: I was visiting my mother-in-law in New Haven, and we decided to cook brunch at her house instead of going out. My daughter Leah and I combined forces to produce the dish. While we were setting the table, the pan sat on the kitchen counter, bathed in morning light. Of course, I immediately shot the photo with my iPhone and posted it on Instagram, where it was peeped by our Editor in Chief Brooke McDonald. She, in turn, shared it with the rest of the MIB staff and they decided it would make the perfect cover for our annual Dining Issue. I was thrilled and flattered, and a little bemused that I was able to shoot it with my iPhone 6. Technology!

When I made shakshuka for the first time, I turned, of course, to Yotam Ottolenghi’s “Jerusalem” cookbook, because he is my resource for all things Middle Eastern and delicious. The following recipe is a riff on his version of the dish. I change something every time, adding in sautéed greens (kale or swiss chard), or even (sorry, Nana!) chopped pancetta. But the bones of the recipe stay true: tomatoes, peppers, onions, harissa, spices and eggs.

Julie’s Sunday Morning Shakshuka

Serves 6

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large bell peppers (I usually go yellow for color contrast), stemmed, seeded and cut into thin strips
  • 1 large onion, peeled, top and bottom cut off, halved, and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons harissa (I usually throw one in with the spices, then check spice level and adjust as necessary before cooking eggs)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • one 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • one 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • one 14-ounce can chickpeas, drained
  • 6 large organic eggs
  • For garnish: 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled; 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, 2 avocados, pitted, diced and scooped out)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (if using — you can also cook completely on top of stove).

2. Heat olive oil in a 9-inch or 10-inch ovenproof skillet. Sauté onion, peppers and garlic over medium heat until soft. Add harissa, cumin, oregano and tomato paste; sauté for a minute. Add in crushed and diced tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes to thicken. Add drained chickpeas and stir to distribute. The stew should be relatively thick at this point. With the back of a large spoon, make 5 divots around the edge of the pan; make one in the middle. Very carefully crack an egg into each divot. If poaching the eggs on top of stove, simmer gently for about 8 minutes. If you like your eggs a little more solid, cook a little longer, or bake in the oven for 10 minutes, which will hard cook the yolks.

3. Serve while still warm and garnish as desired with feta cheese, chopped cilantro and diced avocado. I like to grill or broil slices of crusty multi-grain bread, brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with za’atar, and put a basket of that on the table for dipping/sopping.

 

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Julie-ChernoffJulie Chernoff, Make It Better’s dining editor since its inception in 2007, graduated from Yale University with a degree in English — which she speaks fluently — and added a professional chef’s degree from the California Culinary Academy. She has worked for Boz Scaggs, Rick Bayless and Wolfgang Puck (not all at the same time); and sits on the boards of Les Dames d’Escoffier International and Northlight Theatre. She and husband Josh are empty nesters since adult kids Adam and Leah have flown the coop. Rosie the Cockapoo relishes the extra attention.