I had the pleasure and privilege of being invited to do a cooking demonstration at the Alfred Farmer’s Market yesterday. It being August in New York, I knew the market would likely provide all of the ingredients needed to make one of my all-time favourite fast, fresh, fabulous meals: Shakshuka. Shakshuka -a one dish wonderful sauce made of tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, and spices with eggs poached on top- is a farmer’s market’s dream. The weather was spectacular, there were free salsa-dancing lessons (I was shaking my shakshuka behind the food table) and the crowd was oh-so-friendly. I love the people of Alfred.
One of the things we had fun chatting about was the effect alcohol has on tomatoes. The tomatoes put on a lamp shade and dance on the tables. NOT. Tomatoes (seriously now) have a flavour compound that can’t be released unless cooked with alcohol. It’s a lock-and-key effect. Crazy, eh? These ladies were so fabulous. They asked fantastic questions and didn’t run away when I made them sniff my jar of smoked paprika.
If you don’t drink, you needn’t worry too much here, the alcohol cooks out of the dish leaving little if any behind. There certainly isn’t enough to get you tipsy, but if the presence of alcohol makes you nervous, you can most definitely omit it. I promised the good folks of Alfred to post the recipe here this morning, and I made this promise because I knew you all would love it, too.
Shakshuka (pronounced Shack-shoo-kah) is not only gorgeous and fun to say, but it’s good for you and done at just shy of lightning speed. Do you need a bonus? Because there’s a big bonus. It’s GOOD FOR YOU. And double bonus: it’s versatile. You can whip up massive batches of the lovely, fragrant, super-fresh sauce and freeze them in individual meal-sized portions, or go for broke and eat like summer’s almost over. BECAUSE IT IS.
I mentioned versatility, right? Let me count the ways.
- You can make this with the freshest garden tomatoes OR with a can of good whole tomatoes in sauce (either homemade or purchased.)
- You can make this fresh (as discussed above) or frozen, thawed later, and re-heated.
- You can make this with just the vegetables I specify in the recipe, or add in grated carrot, cubed eggplant, grated zucchini, or more…
- If you want a heartier version, you can add cooked, crumbled sausage to the sauce as it simmers.
- Serve with crusty bread to sop of the sauce (as is my preference) or over cooked rice, noodles, quinoa, or other grains.
- Serve for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!
- Serve with crumbled feta or farmer’s cheese (YUM!) or without!
To me, the smoked paprika and cumin really make this dish sing. If you can’t find smoked paprika, you could substitute in regular paprika, but it won’t have the same complexity of flavour. I prefer sweet smoked paprika over hot smoked paprika, but use whichever you like. If you want to give it a shot and it’s not offered locally, try ordering it through Amazon.com (This is an affiliate link. If you click on it and purchase it, I receive a small commission which in no way effects the cost of the item. Thank you!)
If you make this sans sausage, it’s a dish that will please vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. So hearty! Will you shake your shakshuka?
- *See Notes
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, trimmed of root and blossom ends, peeled and diced
- 1 large bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced
- 1 large jalapeno (or other hot pepper) pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced or pressed
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 2 teaspoons smoked sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin seed
- ¼ teaspoon (adjust according to heat preference) crushed red pepper flakes
- 4 to 8 plum tomatoes, depending on size, cored and coarsely chopped
- 3 tablespoons dry white wine, dry red wine, or vodka
- One batch Shashuka Sauce
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 eggs
- a handful of fresh parsley and chives or other green herbs, chopped
- Optional but tasty: crumbled feta cheese
- Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Drizzle in the olive oil, swirl the pan to coat, add the onions, bell peppers, and jalapenos with a pinch of salt and toss to evenly distribute the ingredients. Lower the heat to medium and let it cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not darkened (lower the heat more to medium-low if necessary to keep the onions from browning.) When those are softened, add in the garlic, stir to distribute and cook just until the garlic is fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the smoked sweet paprika, cumin, and crushed red pepper and again cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- When the spices are fragrant, add in the tomatoes and stir. Raise the heat to medium-high and stir, a simmer. While it is simmering, stir in the wine or vodka and return to a simmer. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture has thickened somewhat and the tomatoes are tender. When all is tender, you may portion into individual serving sizes and freeze, or finish cooking and serve.
- Use the back of a spoon to make little indentations or wells in the tomato sauce. Crack an egg into each indentation, drop the heat to low and cook until the eggs are as done as you like them. If you like them quite firm, you can add a lid to the pan to help them cook through and through. I prefer them when the whites are just set and the yolks are still runny. Shower the pan with chopped fresh herbs and (if desired) crumbled feta. Serve with crusty bread, rice, noodles or quinoa.
- Put frozen sauce along with ½ cup of water into a covered, heavy-bottomed pan over medium-low heat until thawed and then bubbly. Make little indentations or wells in the tomato sauce. Crack an egg into each indentation, drop the heat to low and cook until the eggs are as done as you like them. If you like them quite firm, you can add a lid to the pan to help them cook through and through. I prefer them when the whites are just set and the yolks are still runny. Shower the pan with chopped fresh herbs and (if desired) crumbled feta. Serve with crusty bread, rice, noodles or quinoa.
If your sauce starts sticking to the pan, add a little water, and stir to loosen it up.