Combat chilly weather with this colorful tomato/egg dish
By Lynda Rego
A shakshuka is a beautiful thing — and perfect for this cool fall weather. A bright red tomatoey sauce with sunny eggs and bright green herbs is just what’s needed as we say farewell to summer and hello to chilly mornings and evenings (but some more balmy mid-days … we hope).
I half this recipe for just the two of us for dinner and serve it with toast fingers or warm pita or naan bread. Cornbread sticks would be great, too.
Shakshuka (shock-shoo-kah), or shakshouka, an Israeli breakfast dish, usually has a hot component, such as harissa sauce or a minced chile pepper added to the sauce or it’s drizzled with hot sauce before serving. I don’t like a lot of heat, but that’s your call.
This is an incredibly versatile dish — and recipes for it have been cropping up everywhere this year. I used chard this time because I still have some in my garden. But, you can use any vegetables (and protein) you want. I sometimes use spinach or mushrooms or add shrimp or crumbled, cooked Italian sausage to the sauce before topping it with the eggs.
I’ve seen versions with everything from potatoes, green beans and black olives (yes!) to okra (ick!). But, that’s why this dish is so much fun. It’s your choice. And, you can tinker with the spices. Make it more Italian with oregano, thyme and rosemary; or use eggplant, which I mention below, with cumin and coriander. Make it a little Tex/Mex with cilantro instead of parsley.
And, there’s no reason you can’t crumble a little feta or goat cheese over the top or add some little dollops of ricotta or a few sprinkles of grated hard cheese just before serving.
My only requirement is the fresh herbs. They really add color, flavor and freshness.
Serves 4 to 6
1/2 large sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 sprig rosemary
1 sprig thyme
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt and pepper
1 red or green bell pepper, cut in eighths and then in thin slices
28-ounce can plum tomatoes
2 big bunches Swiss chard, ribs removed and leaves chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves
2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves
In a saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook just until onion softens slightly, about 3 minutes. Stir in the paprika and bell pepper (and a minced chili pepper if you want) and stir for another 3 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, sprigs of rosemary and thyme, and a little salt and pepper. Break the tomatoes up with your spoon. Simmer until the peppers are soft and the sauce is thicker, about 30 minutes. (This is where you could add some large, raw shrimp for the last 5 minutes).
Meanwhile, prep the chard and the fresh herbs. Mix the thyme, tarragon and parsley leaves together and set aside. Preheat oven to 375°.
Heat a heavy frying pan over medium-high heat. Add remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the butter. Add chard, salt and pepper. Toss the chard until it’s wilted, about 4 minutes.
Pour the tomato sauce into the frying pan (discarding the rosemary and thyme sprigs). Gently stir the sauce and chard together. (At this point, you could add cooked chicken or sausage).
With the back of a spoon, make six indentations in the sauce. Drop an egg into each one.
Sprinkle the top with half the fresh herbs. Bake 6 to 8 minutes or until the whites are set and the yolks are still a little runny. (They will continue to cook a little). Sprinkle with the rest of the fresh herbs and serve in shallow bowls with your bread of choice.
When the weather’s hot, I’ve also cooked the eggs on top of the stove. Get the sauce just simmering on low heat. Drop on the eggs, cover and cook 5 to 6 minutes or until the eggs are just set.
Note: You can replace the chard with a large diced eggplant. Salt it and drain it for 10 minutes before sautéing it with the onions for about 10 minutes. Add ground cumin, coriander, turmeric and garam masala to the sauce and eliminate the fresh herb sprigs. Sprinkle the top with a combo of fresh parsley and cilantro.
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