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Seasonal Pantry: Spicy egg dish shakshuka is all the rage |

Seasonal Pantry: Spicy egg dish shakshuka is all the rage

If you haven’t heard of shakshuka yet, you will soon, I guarantee. It has already taken the East Coast by storm, it’s all over the Web and is positioned to be a new darling of brunch menus. Unlike some trends (anything with foam, for example), the attention is warranted.

Shakshuka, popular through the Middle East and North Africa, consists of eggs poached or baked in a spicy tomato sauce. Some versions are quite fiery, others aromatic and mild and many with other ingredients folded into the sauce. One of the best versions I’ve ever had, at Jack’s Wife Freda, a cafe in New York City’s Soho district, replaces tomatoes with tomatillos and poblanos.


If you’re not quite tracking my description, think of it this way. Shakshuka is a cousin of both huevos rancheros, that popular Mexican breakfast dish ubiquitous throughout California, and Italy’s “uova in Purgatoria.”

Some versions are made solely on top of the stove, with eggs broken into the sauce after it is been cooked. Other versions, including the ones I prefer, are finished in the oven.

I was inspired to make it for the first time after visiting the sweet little cookware store, Bram, on the square in Sonoma. The store is named after a clay cooking vessel from Egypt and a small one is ideal for a single serving of shakshuka.

Shakshuka needn’t be a morning dish. Served with a big green salad, it makes a perfect dinner almost any time at all, especially when you make it with good local eggs.

These recipes are adapted from my new book, “The Good Cook’s Book of Tomatoes” (Skyhorse Publishing, 2015). I’ve posted a photograph of shakshuka from the book, along with photographs of brams, at “Eat This Now,” Seasonal Pantry’s companion blog, at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

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Use 2-cup shallow bram clay pots, available at Bram (493 First St. West, Sonoma) for $6.25 each, or use porcelain ramekins of approximately the same size. Be sure to season the brams, if using, according to instructions before using them.

Shakshuka for Two

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, cut into small dice
3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
— Kosher salt
2 teaspoons hot Spanish paprika
2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 14-ounce can organic whole tomatoes, such as Muir Glen brand, or 4 or 5 medium ripe tomatoes, cored and peeled
1 poblano pepper, seared, peeled, seeded and cut into medium julienne
4 farm eggs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley or cilantro
— Black pepper in a mill
— Hot hearth bread or lightly toasted pita

Put the olive oil into a small sauté pan set over medium heat, add the onion and sauté until soft and fragrant, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic, sauté 2 minutes more, season with salt and stir in the paprika and cumin.

Add the tomatoes and use a large fork to break them up. Stir in the poblano, taste and correct for salt and pepper.

Warm the brams or ramekins by filling them with hot water and letting them rest for a few minutes. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Tip out the water and divide the sauce, making sure it is very hot, between the two brams. Break one of the eggs into a small bowl and tip it into a bram; continue until you have used all 4 eggs. Set the brams in the oven, increase the heat to 400 degrees and cook for several minutes, until the whites seem almost set. Switch the oven to broil, cook 2 minutes more and carefully transfer the brams to a wooden cutting board. Sprinkle parsley or cilantro on top and serve right away, with hot bread alongside.

Variations:

Scatter 2 ounces of crumbled feta over the shakshuka before adding the parsley or cilantro.

Add a bed of sautéed spinach or kale (sliced first) in the bottom of both brams before adding the sauce. Grate 4 ounces (1 cup) cheese (such as Joe Matos St. George, Bellwether Carmody, Gruyere or similar cheese) and scatter it over both servings before shifting the oven to broil; cook until the cheese is fully melted.

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This version of shakshuka is based upon the one served at Jack’s Wife Freda (224 Lafayette St., New York). I’ve added sorrel because my garden is always full of it and merguez sausage because I love the combination of flavors. It can be made without either ingredient and no other adjustments will be necessary.

Green Shakshuka with Merguez Sorrel
Serves 2 to 3

8 ounces merguez sausage
1 pint (8 to 10 ounces) green tomatillos, husks removed, washed and halved
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 large poblano peppers, seared, peeled, stemmed, seeded and chopped
1 or 2 serrano peppers, seared, peeled, stemmed, seeded and chopped
¾ cup fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped
¾ cup fresh sorrel leaves, sliced
1 teaspoon cumin
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
— Kosher salt
6 large farm eggs
— Hot hearth bread or toasted brioche

Fry the sausage in a cast-iron or other heavy skillet until evenly browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board or plate, wipe out the skillet and set it over high heat. Add the tomatillos, onion and garlic and cook, turning frequently, until the tomatillos have softened and the onion has picked up a bit of color.

Let cool and tip into the work bowl of a food processor fitted with its metal blade and pulse until smooth. Pass the mixture through a strainer to remove the tomatillo seeds, return the purée to the work bowl, and add the poblanos, serranos, parsley, sorrel, half the cilantro and the cumin and season with salt. Pulse several times, until nearly smooth.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Return to the skillet, correct for salt, and warm over high heat. Stir in the remaining cilantro.

Cut the merguez into ½-inch wide diagonal slices and stir into the sauce.

Break the eggs, one at a time, into 6-inch round porcelain ramekins or similar oven-proof containers. Spoon sauce over the eggs, filling the container nearly full. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or a bit longer, until the egg whites are set and the yolks still liquid.

Transfer each ramekin to a heavy plate or small wooden cutting board, season with a little salt, and serve with bread or brioche.

Michele Anna Jordan has written 19 books to date, including the new “More Than Meatballs.” Email Jordan at catsmilk@sonic.net. You’ll find her blog, “Eat This Now,” at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

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