In general I'm not the biggest fan of breakfast foods. Waffles and pancakes and cereal- meh, they're OK. And I like french toast, but it's much too sweet for me to eat as my primary breakfast meal. On a typical day my breakfast consists of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich: easy to prepare and just enough protein to keep me full until lunchtime.
But eggs- now those are a different story. I love eggs. They're not only awesomely fun to decorate, but they can be eaten any time of day: breakfast, lunch, snack or dinner.
Growing up I had eggs a variety of unique ways. Hard boiled and stuffed into meat balls (for an Assyrian dish called "kipteh"), soft boiled as a special weekend breakfast (I always loved the gentle "tap tap tap" it took to break off the top of the egg), with pita and pickled mango for a delicious sandwich, scrambled and mixed with almost anything you could imagine (including little bits of a delicious Middle Eastern sausage called bastirma), and cooked with a ridiculous amount of herbs for an egg-foo-young type dish that my family called bee-gilaleh (translation: eggs with herbs). We were also known to eat regular 'ole fried eggs too.
But one thing that is different between typical American fried eggs and Middle Eastern fried eggs is the addition of tomatoes. We'd sautee tomatoes, often with some onions, in olive oil before frying up the egg. And I don't know why, but the cooked tomato-egg combo is freaking delicious.
Which is why when I first heard about shakshuka I KNEW I had to try it. And oh... my.... gosh, I'm so glad I did. It was one of the best dinners I've had in a long time. It turned something that I've always liked to something that I now love. The use of canned tomatoes- along with heat from jalapenos, extra umph from spices, and creaminess from cheese- took the idea of egg + tomato to a whole new level.
Key ingredient #1: HEAT. First you start off with lots of onions and jalapenos. Yes, all those green bits are jalapenos, and I didn't even use the full suggested amount.
Key ingredient #2: SPICES. Paprika, cumin and turmeric. And whatever the hell else you want to add to the mix.
Key ingredients #3/4: TOMATOES and EGGS.
Note: I only cooked up two eggs because even though I made the full sauce amount, I was only feeding myself. But each night that I wanted dinner all I had to do was heat up some of the tomato sauce and throw in a few eggs. And viola! An unbelievably delicious dinner... or breakfast or lunch or snack!
Shakshuka (Eggs in Spicy Tomato Sauce), adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Serves 4 to 5
2 TBSP olive oil
2-3 jalapenos, seeds removed and finely chopped.* (or 3-4 anaheim chiles)
1 yellow onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed then sliced
½ teaspoon ground cumin (or more to taste)
½ tsp turmeric (or more to taste)
1 tablespoon paprika
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup water
kosher salt, to taste (I used 1 tsp with my no-salt tomatoes)
8-10 eggs (2 per person)
1/2 cup goat cheese, crumbled (she used feta but I opted for a creamier goat cheese)
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley, optional (I would have used it had I had some)
Toast or pita bread, for serving.
1. Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add chiles and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, turmeric and paprika, and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is soft, about 2 more minutes.
2. While cooking, crush the canned tomatoes with your hands into a separate bowl.
3. Add crushed tomatoes and their liquid to the skillet, along with the water. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Season sauce with salt.
4. Crack eggs over sauce so that eggs are evenly distributed across sauce’s surface. (If you are worried about breaking the yolks, crack eggs one at a time into a small bowl and drop them gently into the tomato sauce.) Cover skillet and cook until yolks are at desired doneness (from wet to set), at least 3-5 minutes.
5. If the whites are not cooked to the desired doneness, use a spoon to baste the whites with the hot tomato mixture, being careful to not burst the yolk.
6. Place eggs (2 per person) and sauce in shallow bowls and sprinkle shakshuka with cheese and parsley. Serve with toasted bread.
*Note: I used 2 jalapenos, which came out to 3 TBSP of chopped peppers. For me it was a really nice level of spiciness: not too spicy and not too mild. I could have added a bit more heat but this is all gonna depend on how hot you like it. I'd say I'm relatively average when it comes to the sensitivity of my taste buds to heat so that should give you an idea of how much more/less chiles you may want to add.