a Middle Eastern dish, is essentially eggs cooked in a
spicy tomato sauce, is beginning to see a gain in
popularity in the United States.
a sudden, the whole world seems to be going shakshuka. And
that’s a good thing. Seriously.
beloved only by cooks who follow Middle Eastern traditions,
shakshuka — essentially eggs cooked in a spicy tomato
sauce — had a breakout moment a couple of years ago,
thanks to Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook "Plenty."
that popularity boom hasn’t been quite so heated as the
run on eggplants inspired by the book’s cover photo, but
shakshuka is definitely turning up in places it never had
before. Like my house.
several months of playing around with the dish, I decided to
get serious and really try to understand it. That required
several weeks of testing shakshuka recipes from various
sources, and after going through pounds of peppers and
tomatoes and a couple dozen eggs, I’m here to say quite
definitively that shakshuka is delicious — however you fix
reality, shakshuka is more an idea than a recipe. Like so
many traditional dishes, it is almost infinitely variable,
adapting itself to the tastes of different countries,
regions, cities, families and even individuals. It’s no
more a single recipe than, say, "spaghetti with tomato
most basic recipe I tried was from Claudia Roden’s
encyclopedic "The New Book of Middle Eastern
Food": fry peppers, add garlic and tomatoes, drop in
the eggs. But because this is shakshuka, she also has
variations: variously adding harissa, caraway seeds,
preserved lemon, capers, cooked potatoes, zucchini,
eggplant, onions and — one that I’m going to file away
for later — frying it with merguez sausages.
of the recipes I found included some kind of bell pepper,
but there were many that did not. There’s not even any
definitive agreement on how the dish should be spelled in
English. Some prefer chakchouka, others go with shakshouka.
Transliteration, like cooking, is an art, not a science.
want a perfect example of how diverse shakshuka recipes can
be, you need only compare the two most recent Ottolenghi
2010’s "Plenty," the version that drove the dish’s
recent popularity, the tomato sauce is flavored with a very
complex, fairly restaurant-y combination of onions, red and
yellow peppers, sugar, bay leaves, fresh thyme, parsley,
cilantro, saffron and cumin.
"Jerusalem," which came out in 2012, the shakshuka
comes from his co-writer and business partner Sami Tamimi
and is a more stripped-down version, that complex spicing
abbreviated by the substitution of harissa, with only cumin
testing the recipes, I learned that I like peppers in my
tomato sauce — they add sweetness and a certain silky
texture. I like harissa for heat and complexity (brands vary
in spice, start low and add more to taste). I like cumin,
which adds an earthy bitterness to the chile heat.
in my own addition to the shakshuka scramble, I add a little
bit of Spanish pimenton de la Vera — radical, perhaps, but
the smokiness adds another layer of complexity.
my shakshuka and I’ll add it if I want to. I’m just
minutes. Serves 2 to 4
tablespoons olive oil
bell peppers, cored and cut into 1/4-inch lengthwise slices
(about 1 1/2 cups)
and freshly ground black pepper
onion, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced (about 1
cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 to 2
tablespoons tomato paste
teaspoon ground cumin
chopped tomatoes (about 3 tomatoes)
teaspoon pimenton de la Vera
tablespoons chopped cilantro
or Greek yogurt
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced
peppers, salt lightly and cook, stirring frequently, until
the peppers have wilted and begun to soften, about 5
the onion and cook until it has softened, about 5 minutes,
then add the garlic and continue cooking until that becomes
fragrant, about 1 minute.
the harissa, tomato paste and cumin and cook until the
mixture becomes richly fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the
chopped tomatoes and the pimenton and cook until the mixture
forms a thick sauce, about 7 minutes. Season to taste with
salt and pepper and add more harissa if desired.
Using the back of a spoon, make 4 depressions in the sauce
and crack an egg into each. Sprinkle lightly with salt,
cover the pan and cook until the eggs are set, about 10
Sprinkle chopped cilantro over the top and serve
immediately, with labneh or Greek yogurt on the side.
OF 4 SERVINGS
fat 3 g
This recipe is based on one by Sami Tamimi in his and Yotam
Ottolenghi’s "Jerusalem." Harissa from different
sources can vary in heat; taste before adding and adjust