What to CookMiddle Eastern

Make This Shakshuka The Centerpiece of Your Family-Style Holiday Brunch

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Simple, serves-a-crowd recipes are welcome during the holidays, so we partnered with Wolf Gourmet to show you how to make shakshuka and harissa for your next brunch.

You could say the beginning of my cookbook collection really started with Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's Jerusalem. And that my love affair with the book started with shakshuka.

In a former life, aka my early 20s, I used to work at the Guggenheim Museum on New York's Upper East Side. (Bear with me, this does have something to do with eggs.) I love this museum, not only for its collection and the building's temple-like grace, but because of the people I worked with, who were thoughtful and outward-looking. We were always chattering on about dance, opera, and travel. But my boss there, a born-and-bred New Yorker who had worked in galleries and museums all of her adult life, and I bonded over food. I like to think she was along for the ride during my food awakening, talking about restaurants and what she made that weekend, encouraging my writing, and educating me about this and that chef. (Let's just say my formative years in Indiana were not full of important cookbooks or global cuisine.)

When the time came for me to move on and take a job at another museum in the city, it was customary to have a little goodbye party where a few gifts were given to departing employees to remember the museum by. My boss passed on the museum-shaped espresso cups, the iconic umbrella, and even the LEGO® set. She gifted me a copy of Jerusalem instead. I'm pretty sure I cried.

Yotam Ottolenghi's Shakshuka
Yotam Ottolenghi's Shakshuka

Now, back to the shakshuka—a dish that's Tunisian in origin, but enjoyed across the Middle East. It's the two pages in my copy of Jerusalem that have the most spills and bends, a recipe in which softly cooked eggs relax happily in stewed, spiced chopped tomatoes, onions, and peppers. Ottolenghi's shakshuka, like the rest of Jerusalem, gave me confidence. All of the ingredients were familiar, but the dish's name evoked a part of the world I hadn't explored through cooking before. After I'd made it a few times, I moved on to less-than-familiar recipes in the book with even more less-than-familiar ingredients. Knowing I could cook at least one thing successfully made this—this taking chances thing—more normal, and made me over as a better cook.

Harissa
Harissa

I believe the key to better shakshuka is using homemade harissa (like this one), which you can blend up from ingredients you'll most likely have around—and then keep it on hand for weeks, and meals, after. Shakshuka's laid-back preparation lends well to brunch or lunch for you and maybe a few close friends. You need little else than some labneh or yogurt to top it off, and toasty pita or white bread to sop up the extra sauce. It's a natural start for a new-ish cook, or if you're hosting and want to do little more than stir a wooden spoon around in a pan and crack some eggs. With all the fuss of the holidays swirling about, it's as good a time as any to break shakshuka out.

Yotam Ottolenghi's Shakshuka

Yotam Ottolenghi's Shakshuka

Food52 Food52
Serves 4
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon harissa (homemade, if you'd like)
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 2 (2 cups / 300 grams) large red peppers, diced in 1/4-inch pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 5 cups (800 grams) very ripe tomatoes, chopped; canned are also fine
  • 4 large eggs, plus 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) labneh or thick yogurt
  • 1 pinch salt
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Harissa

Harissa

Kitchen Konfidence Kitchen Konfidence
Makes 1 cup
  • 5 medium dried chile peppers, stems removed*
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
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Wolf Gourmet's countertop appliances and kitchen tools, like their high-performance blender, countertop oven, and 10-piece cookware set, make professional and precise look easy—read more about both here.

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Tags: Egg, Tomato, Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, Holiday Entertaining