Shakshuka is not for country folk

Updated: Mar 12

Breakfast for dinner at my house growing up was a once in a blue moon event. The menu was always the same: bacon, grits with butter and sugar, and overcooked scrambled eggs. My mom, God rest her, wasn't the best cook but she always had a balanced meal on the table every day. She put forth an effort even when she was working full time with three children and a husband, God rest him, who didn't contribute to the housework nor child care. Mom grew up in the 60s in a traditional Southern family meaning Paw Paw, God rest him, worked at the printers downtown while Granny, God rest her, cared for the house and their four children. Now, back in the day, Granny was an excellent cook but sometime in the 90s she lost her sense of smell and made all her dishes from memory. This could have been one of their favorite dishes but I'm from country people so this would have been a little out there. Not unlike chili, you can make the tomato sauce as a big batch then freeze it in zip-top bags for a super fast midnight meal.


Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi and David Leibovitz recipes. The tomato base is easy to double or triple then freeze the excess for a super quick meal. When served, the eggs should be still runny so that the yolks mingle with the spicy sauce. This dish can easily become vegan with the omission of feta and the sub of tofu for the egg.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, peeled and diced

3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

1 finger hot, anaheim or poblano chile stemmed, sliced in half and deseeded, finely diced/minced

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon paprika, smoked or sweet

1 teaspoon caraway seeds, crushed

1 teaspoon cumin seeds crushed

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

2- 14-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons honey

1 teaspoon red wine or cider vinegar

1 cup loosely packed greens, such as radish greens, watercress, kale, Swiss chard, or spinach, coarsely chopped

4 ounces (about 1 cup, 115g) feta cheese, cut in generous, bite-sized cubes

4 to 6 eggs

1. In a wide skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and the garlic and cook for 5 minutes, until soft and wilted. Add the chile pepper, the salt, pepper, and spices. Cook for a minute, stirring constantly, to release their fragrance.

2. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, honey, and vinegar, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened somewhat but is still loose enough so that when you shake the pan it sloshes around. Stir in the chopped greens.

3. If you want to finish the Shakshuka on the stovetop, turn off the heat. With the back of a spoon, make 6 indentations in the sauce; crack an egg into each indentation, then drag a spatula gently through the egg whites so it mingles a bit with the tomato sauce, being careful not to disturb the yolks.

Turn the heat back on so the sauce is at a gentle simmer, and cook for about 10 minutes, taking some of the tomato sauce and basting the egg whites from time-to-time. Cover, and cook 3 to 5 minutes, until the eggs are cooked to your liking.

4. To finish them individually, preheat the oven to 375ºF (180ºC). Divide the sauce into 6 baking dishes, set the baking dishes on a baking sheet, make an indentation in each, and crack an egg into the center. Bake until the eggs are cooked to your liking, basting the whites with some of the sauce midway during baking, which will take anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes – but begin checking them sooner to get them just right. If the yolks begin to get a little firm on top before the whites are cooked, drape a sheet of foil over them, but avoid having it touch the yolks.

Serve with lots of crusty bread for scraping up the sauce. Garnish with crumbles feta and chopped cilantro, if desired.

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1971-present day Chicago