Shakshuka With Feta

The blogging world is such a funny place. Through it I've met many friends who have since become kindred spirits. I've also met many people I might not otherwise encountered, who have become friends. I love that about the internet. One of these unlikely friends is a Orthodox Jewish feminist named Jessica. Though Jessica and I have many differences when it comes to religious beliefs and how we view the world, we became connected through my blog and have become friends on Facebook. Jessica suggested almost a year ago that I should try my hand a shakshuka recipe on Lipstick & Gelato. I wasn't sure how to make shakshuka or even what it was, but I knew that a girl who had lived in Israel and fallen in love with it must know her stuff. I mean to follow up the challenge quickly, but here I am at last: Jessica, this is for you. I've never been to Israel. I've never tried real shakshuka. But I'm hooked on whatever this version is. I can only imagine what the authentic version tastes like!

First, a little background. Shakshuka (say it over and over - it's so much fun) is a North African dish consisting of red peppers, tomatoes, spices like cumin, cayenne, and paprika, and poached eggs. Literally translated, "shakshuka" means "all mixed up." Which is the delicious goal of this easy-to-make brunch dish. From all reports, shakshuka is like the Middle East's version of American's avocado toast: found almost anywhere you can buy a cup of coffee. And I can see why: the complex flavors are bright and peppy without being overwhelming. It's also a one-dish wonder, and nobody likes having to ruin the sleepy aftermath of a lovely brunch by having to wash one million and five dishes. You simply make the sauce in a skillet, crack in the eggs, and finish it off in the oven. If you want to go really hard-core you don't even have to plate the shakshuka: go family-style and scoop it up with crusty slices of toasted or grilled whole-grain bread. It's vegetarian, delicious, and so so full of pizazz.

Shakshuka With Feta
(serves three or four)

2 Tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 jalepeno, seeds removed, diced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 14-oz. can plum tomatoes with juice
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3-4 large eggs
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
artichoke hearts, olives, etc. for topping
toasted, hearty bread for scooping

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium-sized skillet, heat olive oil. Toss in onions, peppers, and garlic and saute for fifteen minutes, or until very tender and beginning to caramelize.
  2. Add plum tomatoes, squeezing them apart with your fingers into small chunks. Add salt, pepper, and spices and simmer for 10 minutes, or until slightly thickened.
  3. Crack eggs into skillet here and there, and slightly pile the tomato sauce around them. Slide into oven and bake for 7-10 minutes, until eggs are just set. Remove from oven, sprinkle with cilantro and drizzle with extra oil. Serve immediately!

I foresee shakshuka being the kind of things I make over and over again for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. It's healthy, it's filling, and it's super easy to fix up in a flash. There you go, Jessica. Thanks for the suggestion and for introducing me to the wonderful world of this versatile dish!

PS: No matter where you stand politically, the world is full of heart and open wounds. Learning to make the foods of different cultures is an important way to connect with those cultures and better understand them. When I eat shakshuka or hummus, baba ganouj or hawaij, I am thinking of and praying for the Middle East. I'm not thinking of a hot, sandy country with a language I don't understand and a religion whose underlying themes I could easily fear. I am thinking of a woman who prepares a meal with steady hands and the sounds of war behind her. Food takes a global matter and makes it personal. So much fear disappears when you share food together. I wish I could gather a bunch of displaced women and children in my home. I wish I could cook them a big meal. I wish they could teach me to prepare the foods that make them feel at home. I wish I could help them heal and forget for a while that they no longer have a home. Yes, eating from other cultures is a humanitarian lesson, if you have the heart to learn it. Make shakshuka. Pray for the refugees. Pray for the Middle East. And keep your heart open so you might see where you can love harder than ever. Lord knows we all need to operate with a little more love and a little less fear.

1 comment

  1. Looks delicious...and excellent words about love, compassion, and the barriers that can be removed over community and food! <3