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Shakshouka

A dish so flexible, you could cook it with a space heater.

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My restaurant in Philadelphia, Zahav, was built by an Israeli dude, Ofer Shlomo, during the winter of 2008. It was freezing, and we had no gas, so he brought in a giant space heater, and he would use it like a stove to cook big-ass batches of shakshouka for his staff. That’s the thing about shakshouka: anything goes. Traditionally, you have eggs simmered in a base of stewed tomatoes and peppers, which grow year-round in Israel, but from there you can do whatever you want. Sometimes it’s lightly sweetened with sugar; other people like it extremely piquant. Some people do it with braised spinach. I personally really like coriander and cumin in my shakshouka, and sometimes I’ll add merguez. There are so many components that make up Israeli cuisine—stuff from North Africa, the Mediterranean, the Balkans—and you can play up any of those influences.

If you eat shakshouka at a restaurant in Israel—Dr. Shakshuka in Jaffa does a great one—it’ll be served in individual portions, but at home you can make a communal batch. Typically, it’s done on the stove top, but in a pinch a space heater will do.

Adapted from ZAHAV: A World of Israeli Cooking, by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

Ingredients

Makes 8 servings
  • 1/4 C olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced (about 1 1/2 C)
  • 2 red or green bell peppers, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 T ground dried lime (optional)
  • 3 T sweet paprika
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1 t ground coriander
  • 1 t kosher salt
  • 4 C tomato purée
  • 2 t sugar
  • 8 large eggs
  • + serrano chilies, thinly sliced
  • + fresh cilantro, chopped

Preparation

  1. Heat half the olive oil over medium heat in a cast-iron skillet large enough to accommodate all 8 eggs. (If you don’t have a skillet that large, use two pans, dividing the ingredients evenly between them.) Add the onions, bell peppers, garlic, dried lime (if using), paprika, cumin, coriander, and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened but not yet browned, about 10 minutes. Add the tomato purée and sugar and simmer until reduced by about one-third, 10–12 minutes. Whisk in the remaining oil.

  2. Crack the eggs into the skillet, spacing them evenly in the sauce. Lower the heat, cover, and cook until the egg whites are set but the yolks remain runny, about 5 minutes. Top with serrano chilies and cilantro and serve immediately, straight from the pan.