For oh-so-long, the idea of eggs with tomato sauce absolutely horrified me. You see, back in 2002, The Hartford Courant ran an article about a woman’s favorite Lenten tradition: eggs cooked (for 90 minutes?!) in a simple, tomato paste sauce. My mom cooked the accompanying recipe for us one Friday night, and, as much as it pains me to admit this publicly, it was a total miss (honestly, the only one that comes to mind). Just. Awful.
Fast forward a good number of years, and suddenly I kept seeing the zesty, Middle Eastern tomato and egg dish, Shakshouka, mentioned. First on Smitten Kitchen, then on my Facebook newsfeed (my friend, Rachel, mentioned she was making the dish). Eventually, the dish began to intrigue me as well, despite previous experiences.
In mid-October 2010, David organized a short hike for us, along with my folks, in the Oakland Hills — the Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve trail to be exact. I’m not much of a hiker — city wandering is much more up my alley¹ — but the day was sweetened with the promise of brunch après-hike at my choice of restaurant. (Yes, it seems that I can be persuaded by
the literal dangling of carrots the promise of a good meal.) Based on a good number of Yelp reviews combined with an appealing menu, I decided on Chop Bar in Oakland.
And there, that’s where all of my prejudices against tomato and egg marriages were shattered with a mere bite of a mouthful‑of‑a‑name dish — Eggs ala Cazuela with Grilled Veggie Mojo². The spicy, highly-seasoned tomato mixture coupled with runny-yolked eggs and home fries was just what I needed to thaw out and put a huge grin on my face after a drizzly, albeit brief, hike.
This recipe for shakshouka isn’t a perfect substitute for the restaurant version — theirs is far more smokey-tasting, in part because (I think) they use chipotles — but it has its own merits (super easy, quick, budget-friendly, [just as] warming, etc.). If time allows, I highly recommend serving the dish with some simple, oil-salt-pepper-roasted potatoes. Or a few slices of toasted, garlic-rubbed and oil-drizzled no-knead bread. How about both?! I absolutely love having something to dip into or sop up the tomato sauce.
Are there any foods that you’ve changed your mind about over the years? Please share in the comments!
Preparation Time: 30 – 45 minutes
Spicy Tomato Sauce:
- 2 ounces (57 grams, 1/4 cup) olive oil
- 3 ounces (85 grams or 1/2 cup lightly packed or about 3 large) stemmed and seeded finely chopped jalapeños
- 4 ounces (113 grams or about 1 medium) finely chopped yellow onion
- 1 ounce (28 grams or 2 tablespoons) garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon hot paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 28 ounce can whole plum tomatoes
- 4 ounces (113 grams or 1/2 cup) water
- Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
- Za’atar³ (optional)
- 4 – 8 large eggs⁴
- Water and white vinegar to a depth of two inches (use the following ratio: 1 tablespoon vinegar for every 2 cups water)
Make Tomato Sauce:
Pour olive oil into a large, non-reactive pan over medium heat. Warm oil just until shimmering. Stir in onions and peppers, cook for 10 minutes or until softened and slightly browned. Reduce heat to medium-low and add garlic, cumin and hot paprika (stir frequently to prevent mixture from burning); cook until garlic is soft, 1 – 2 minutes.
While the garlic is cooking, pour tomatoes and their juices into a medium bowl. Using your hands, crush tomatoes into small pieces — there shouldn’t be any chunks left larger than about 1/2 inch.
Once garlic has softened, increase heat to medium and stir in crushed tomatoes and water. Cover with mesh splatter shield and bring mixture to a simmer. Continue to cook mixture over medium heat for 20 minutes (once it comes to a simmer), stirring every few minutes to ensure that it doesn’t stick.
While sauce simmers, poach eggs. In a 4″ deep saucepan (a 2-quart saucepan is a great size for this), warm water and vinegar over medium heat until a few small bubbles start surfacing. Crack egg into the hot water, wait about 30 seconds before touching it. Using a slotted spoon, gently loosen egg from the bottom of the pan. Gently nudge the whites (still a bit clear at this point) around the yolk to form the egg into the nice poached egg shape. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes total. Remove egg with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with remaining eggs (no need to change water unless it’s too cloudy — that means the water wasn’t quite warm enough when the egg went in).
If desired, reheat eggs just before serving. Slip them (all at once is ok) back into hot water for about 30 seconds; drain.
Spoon tomato sauce into bowls, top with poached egg or two. Serve immediately with bread and potatoes (if desired).
¹ I still have fond memories of an epic San Francisco walk that David and I took several years ago. We convinced ourselves that walking from our apartment to the Golden Gate bridge wasn’t that far. Well, let’s just say, it’s much further than it appears. Five-point-two-miles to be exact. One way. We made there and (most of the way, thank goodness for MUNI!) back on foot, utilizing the slightly creepy pedestrian subways and all. Those sort of “hikes” are fun for me. As for practically-in-the-middle-of-nowhere ones, I’m slowly developing an appreciation.
² As always, I highly recommend confirming the gluten-free status of restaurant dishes I talk about if you go.
³ I’m not sure this is a terribly authentic addition, but I love a finishing sprinkle of this spice combo on top (oregano-tomato always works for me).
⁴ Please note that consuming raw or undercooked eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness, especially if you have certain medical conditions.