I woke up with a stuffy nose the other day. Not the kind from an oncoming cold, nor from an allergy (as far as I can tell), but just the kind that occurs randomly as the weather bounces from so warm at bedtime it keeps you from sleeping so you kick off the light blanket, to sometime in the early AM when you wake up shivering because the temperature finally dropped and the light blanket became way insufficient but you didn't want to get out of bed to search for the nice warm quilt that you left at the foot of the bed "just in case" but fell to the floor and the dog curled up on on it when he discovered it more comfortable than that overpriced dog bed you got him at Costco so you pull your bathrobe over the light in a failed attempt to warm up a tad.
The normal comforting warmth of oatmeal was not going to do it for me that other morning. So I banged out a simplified version of Shakshuka (shack-SHUH-kah), figuring the spicy heat would open my sinuses a bit. Shakshuka, a dish popular in middle eastern countries, consists of eggs cooked in a spicy chunky tomato sauce. In Israel it's served for breakfast. It took me several years to get around to making it, since I don't usually like spicy anything for breakfast. Lunch or dinner, no problem ... just that first thing in the morning, the idea of anything spicier than American cheese usually makes me queasy. But on this other day, spices ruled.
My full version of shakshuka tosses in a small chopped onion and a small diced potato, sauteed in olive oil for 5 minutes as the very first step. But I don't leave much slack tome on a workday morning so I reluctantly skipped it, that other morning.
I don't refer to the cracking-egg-into-the-tomato-mixture step as poaching (even though it technically is), because I didn't want you, Dear Reader, to be intimidated. If, instead of perfectly oval ovum some egg white decides to escape into the sauce (which happened as you will see below), the results will still look and taste tee-rific!
Zhug is a middle-eastern spice mixture that's big in Israel. It generally includes chile powder, garlic, coriander, cumin and red pepper. Depending upon the brand, it can be anywhere from mild to hot. If you don't have any in your pantry and don't feel like buying a jar, substitute a pinch each of cayenne and chile powder for spicy heat. For a real Israeli experience, serve with toasted pita or bread triangles for dunking. And for true authenticity, forget the plates; cook and eat directly from individual mini-skillets.
Yield: 1-2 servings
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground sweet or smoky paprika
1/8 tsp. zhug (optional)
1 clove garlic (about 1 tsp. minced; jarred okay)
1 (14-15 oz.) can diced tomatoes, undrained (fire roasted preferred)
1/4 tsp. kosher salt (or more to taste)
2 large eggs
1/8 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon parsley leaves, chopped (for garnish)
warmed pita or toast triangles (optional)
Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add cumin, paprika and zhug. Stir constantly for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add garlic and stir constantly for another 30 seconds.
Stir in diced tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat slightly; continue to simmer for another 3-5 minutes, or until most (but not all) of the liquid evaporates.
|If you can push back the liquid for a few seconds, it's ready|
Add salt; taste and add additional salt if needed.
Carefully break the eggs on top of the tomato mixture. Do not stir in. If some of the egg migrates into the sauce, don't panic ... it'll still be fine.
|Not a neat job ... what looks like onion |
is really wayward egg whites.
Continue to cook for another 8-10 minutes or until the eggs are cooked, with the yolk barely runny (or to your taste).
Sprinkle evenly with black pepper and parsley. Serve immediately with pita or toast (if desired).