I always come back from traveling a changed man. Our trip to France last year left me yearning for fresh, warm baguettes and turned me into a bit of a bread and cheese snob. From a trip to London, I learned that fish and chips is not just some greasy piece of unwanted fish and a pile of burnt fries. And after a week long excursion with my father to Amsterdam… well, I’m not going to talk about that one.
When I learned that the second challenge for the Project Food Blog competition was to prepare a “classic” dish from another culture, I knew I needed to dig into these past experiences and try a recipe from my travels.
I’ve talked about my trip to Israel a few times here because it’s one that not only changed the way that I look at the world, but it made me take a closer look at my own life. What had a particular effect on me were the foods that we ate while we were there. Fresh cheeses and tuna salad for breakfast, hummus and falafel for lunch, and platters of fish and bowls of olives for dinner.
Over the course of the ten days I was in Israel, I did get to try some dishes that I had never heard of… one of my favorites being shakshuka. Now, I’ve said it before, but I just wanted to note again that I’m not much of a breakfast person. But here’s where Israel completely changed the way I look at food… I LOVED the breakfasts.
Eating a big bowl of eggs that have been poached in tomato sauce with a pile of big crusty bread. Well, that’s my idea of Heaven.
If it doesn’t sound appealing to you, understand that this isn’t jarred tomato sauce that we’re talking about. This is an oniony, slightly spicy stew that is so comforting, it’s the perfect dish to make on a cold weekend morning.
We went to the Cape Cod Organic Farm last weekend to get the ingredients for the shakshuka. This farm has some of the most beautiful, free range, organic eggs I have ever eaten. Their yolks are bright yellow, not that muddled color you get from conventional eggs. One bite and, I swear, you can’t go back.
An unexpected surprise were the huge crates of fresh jalapeno peppers and onions. Check that off the list!
The first bite of shakshuka immediately brought me back to Israel, sitting around the communal table with my friends, talking about the upcoming adventures for the day. It’s a dish that I came home raving about… and have been dying to make it since that trip.
As I (hope to) continue onto the next level of this competition, I expect there will be other recipes that will bring back some incredible memories.
Again, I’d like to thank everyone who voted for my first entry and who helped me move on to the second round of the Project Food Blog competition. You can vote for this recipe starting on September 27th at 9AM EST and it will end at 9PM EST on September 30th. Click here to vote!
Shakshuka [Eggs Poached in Spicy Tomato Sauce]
Serves 4 to 6
1/4 cup olive oil
5 Anaheim chiles or 3 jalapeños, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped (I was nervous and only used 2 Anaheims; I would go for 3 or 4 next time for a more moderate but still gentle kick)
1 small yellow onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed then sliced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
Kosher salt, to taste
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
Warm pitas, for serving
Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add chiles and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, and paprika, and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is soft, about 2 more minutes.
Put tomatoes and their liquid into a medium bowl and crush with your hands. Add crushed tomatoes and their liquid to skillet along with 1/2 cup water, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Season sauce with salt.
Crack eggs over sauce so that eggs are evenly distributed across sauce’s surface. Cover skillet and cook until yolks are just set, about 5 minutes. Using a spoon, baste the whites of the eggs with tomato mixture, being careful not to disturb the yolk. Sprinkle shakshuka with feta and parsley and serve with pitas, for dipping.