created at: 2013-02-14
Tell me if this has happened to you before: You’re stuck in the house under two feet of snow. Your original intention of going to the grocery store to stock up on food before the impending storm was dashed by the throngs of like-minded people and checkout lines that snaked to the back of the store. So now you’re housebound, hungry, and left to work with what you’ve got.

Okay, so maybe that’s a bit dramatic. The truth is, my roommates and I managed to get in a last-minute supermarket run on Friday morning, before the snow started to fall. By the time the driving ban was enacted, we had a refrigerator teeming with food, a 1,000-piece puzzle, and a full DVR to keep us well fed and entertained during the storm. So, the circumstances weren’t exactly dire.

But Thursday night, before stocking up on amenities, we were on our own. We needed a dish that only required ingredients we already had and could serve a hungry crowd of six, including one vegetarian. After a quick survey of the pantry and vegetable drawers, we realized we had the makings for one of our favorite quick weeknight meals: shakshuka.

Shakshuka is a Middle Eastern dish of eggs poached in a spicy sauce made of tomatoes and peppers. Chances are, you’ve got most, if not all, of the ingredients in your kitchen right now. (My recipe calls for Anaheim and jalapeno peppers, but if you don’t have them on hand and don’t feel like running out, use whatever peppers you already have.)

I first heard about shakshuka over a year ago, when my girlfriend came home from brunch at The Beehive, raving about the spicy, poached egg dish she’d eaten. I looked it up online, where I read about its popularity in Israel. So I asked a friend of mine who used to live in Israel about the dish. I had just started describing it to her before she cut me off. Of course she knew about shakshuka. She’d eaten it weekly in Jerusalem, and continued preparing it regularly once she moved back to the States.

Since then, shakshuka has become an oft-used staple in my weeknight repertoire. But it’s also a great dish to serve to company—with or without the blizzard conditions.


Serves 4 to 6

If you like a spicy kick, leave in some of the chiles’ ribs and seeds. If not, remove all of the ribs and seeds before adding the chiles to the pan. But either way, be careful! The hot oil gets into your skin and under your fingernails, so use plastic gloves or a food processor to chop them. Or, at the very least, remember to take out your contact lenses before preparing them (unless you like spicy pepper oil in your eyes).

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 Anaheim chiles, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
1 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained, crushed with your hands
6 to 8 eggs
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon parsley, minced
Bread (toasted baguette or soft pita), for serving

1. Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet (cast iron is preferred, but not necessary) over medium heat until shimmering. Add chiles and onions. Season with kosher salt and sauté until vegetables start to brown, about 8 minutes.

2. Add garlic, cumin, paprika, and pepper. Stir until vegetables are evenly coated with spices. Cook, stirring constantly, until garlic becomes fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3. Stir in tomatoes (with their juices). Reduce heat so mixture simmers, then allow to reduce until thickened slightly but still saucy, 5 to 10 minutes.

4. Working quickly, crack eggs into sauce as it simmers. Try to space eggs evenly and use as many as you can fit without crowding the pan. Cover skillet and cook until egg whites are cooked through and yolks are just set, about 3 to 5 minutes. To serve, spoon egg and some tomato mixture onto plate, sprinkle with crumbled feta, and garnish with parsley. Serve alongside bread, if desired.