Sunday, April 4, 2010
Sorry, I couldn't help myself. No, one sneezed. Shakshuka is an Israeli dish that my husband and I ate almost every morning for breakfast when we were in Costa Rica. We go there for the surfing - him - not me. There is a little restaurant across the street from hotel where we stay called Zula. It's run by Israeli brothers, Rotem and Avi. Gingi, (pronounce with soft Gs) who is the server most of the time, told me how to make it. Two years ago two of our friends came along with us. They had never been to Costa Rica before and they really needed a vacation. Long story short, they loved it. They were able to relax, AND they loved the Shakshuka at Zula. Like I said, we went almost every morning (they are closed on Saturdays) and ordered the same thing.
I will admit that the photo isn't the best. I forgot to photograph it before we dug into it, and I will also admit that it is not the most photogenic dish either. But fear not - looks are deceiving!
Shakshuka has a very chunky tomato sauce with lots of onions and garlic, seasoned with salt, and a little red pepper flake. When the sauce is properly cooked down, you crack eggs right on top of the thick sauce and let the eggs poach on top until they are done to your liking. Some people like them cooked hard, some like the yolk still soft. I like them a little soft. It's served with hummus and warm pita bread. Gingi would NEVER use store bought hummus, he likes to make his own starting with dry garbanzo beans. Feel free to use store bought - it'll be fine.
Zula has other dishes that are equally good. They make several kinds of vegetarian pita sandwiches, felafel, they even make a chicken schnitzel they put on a pita sandwich with lettuce, cucumbers and some yummy dressing. Wow. It's one of my favorites. And they make the best smoothies using, of course, nothing but ripe local fruits -- mangoes, papayas, bananas.
When we got home from Costa Rica that year I promised our friends I would have them over for Shakshuka. Here we are nearly two years later and finally, we are having Shakshuka together. My husband and I normally drive up to Ohio to spend Easter with my family. This year, we aren't driving up so I asked my friends if they were going anywhere for Easter and they happened to be staying in town too. So this was the perfect opportunity to have Shakshuka Easter Eggs, as I've come to call them this year.
It's only 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, and as I write I can hear the sauce bubbling and simmering while the liquid cooks down. The house smells wonderful, full of garlic and tomato! I'm making the sauce ahead of time. It has to simmer for a while, and since we are transporting the dish, I didn't want to have to cook it for such a long time over there. Making it ahead of time is perfectly fine. As a matter of fact, the sauce will have a chance to marry all the flavors together. Tomorrow, I will reheat the sauce, and crack the eggs on top. Should take about 25 - 30 minutes to cook up the eggs.
Since Gingi gave me the recipe nearly 2 years ago, I couldn't quite remember everything. So I looked up a bunch of recipes on the web. Almost every one of them included a hint of green pepper, so I did that. And many of them indicated that the key to a good Shakshuka is making it in a cast iron pan. I don't know why, but I am lucky enough to own a large cast iron pan, so I used it. The first time I made this, I just cooked up the sauce in my every day skillet, cracked the eggs on top and let it simmer to finish the eggs. It was delicious! It didn't taste quite the same as Gingi's, but we loved it. The cast iron skillet did somehow make it better, but I wouldn't lose any sleep over it if you don't have one.
Here's what you'll need.
1/2 c olive oil
1 Medium white onion, diced
1/2 of a large green pepper, diced finely
3 - 4 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 - 2 T salt
1 t. red pepper flake
2 28 oz cans of diced tomatoes
8 - 12 large or jumbo eggs
Saute the onions and green pepper over medium heat until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or so. Then pour in the tomatoes, add the salt and red pepper flakes and let this simmer until the sauce is no long watery but still very moist -- almost creamy.
Now make indentations all over the top with a big spoon and crack an egg into each indentation. I found that jumbo eggs are little big for this, so large will probably work better. Adjust the heat so that the sauce is not boiling, but just simmering gently, and let the eggs poach in the sauce until they are done to your liking. Poke the whites with a fork to test. You'll be able to tell if they are set up to your liking.
Since I was transporting my dish to someone else's house, I poured the finished sauce from the cast iron pan into a 9 x 12 glass casserole. I cracked the eggs on top once we were there and baked the whole thing for 25 - 30 minutes. You could obviously take the whole cast iron skillet along but that's a little unwieldy because it's so heavy.
As soon as it was done, I used a slotted spoon to separate the eggs from one another. We were serving it as a buffet so this made is easier for everyone to serve themselves individual eggs.
Serve it with Pita bread and some hummus on the plate.
Even those whom I thought might be skeptical about this dish loved it. It was lovely and creamy and garlicky with just the right amount of heat from the red pepper flakes! Everyone had a large plateful and ate every bite! I could eat this every day! As a mater of fact, if you leave out the hummus, you are actually eating quite a healthy dish full of tomatoes and only one or two eggs per person.
Our friends who were hosting the "brunch" provided us with a lovely dessert of Orange Cream Cake and little tiny morsels of tiny cake squares in different flavors- peanut butter with chocolate, brownies with cream cheese frosting, shortcake with jam and what I think were pecan pie flavored squares. We also had a lovely surprise called Electric Blue Martinis. They were made with Grand Marnier, Curacao and other ingredients of which I know not. They were delicious and beautiful!
We talked about the movies we'd seen, loved and hated, played Dirty Minds, talked a little taxes, discussed the merits of shopping at Best Buy (or not shopping at Best Buy) and enjoyed a lovely afternoon out on the back deck.