Cumin

Tomato-y, Yogurt-y Shakshuka

April  8, 2021
4 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

This year I will feed my children too many eggs.

Does this count as a resolution? It’s how I prefer mine: modest and resigned. Because this probably isn’t the year to join the high fliers who soar to high heights. It’s probably the year to do the same thing you were doing anyway. But to do it better.

Which is why: eggs. When there is no dinner to be seen—not ready in the freezer, not gestating in the fridge—eggs are there for us. An embarrassing percentage of Isaiah’s body was built with egg protein: fried with sardines, over-easy on English muffins, scrambled next to roasted vegetables.

You’ve heard of the flight-versus-invisibility question? There’s a poultry version: which would you rather have—the chicken or the egg?

We pick the egg. Until our rebellious children become vegans and destroy our family forever, we live on eggs.

But this year they will be better.

A long time ago, someone misshelved eggs in the breakfast half of the day. As Tamar Adler has observed, this is unwise. Eggs have an almost magical ability to transform whatever was in your kitchen into a meal. They’re like that reality show about the British nanny who comes and molds a dysfunctional household into a family-like shape. Eggs mold your dysfunctional ingredients into a dinner-like shape.

For the New Year, I’ve assembled these half-dozen frames for eggs. They aren’t recipes, exactly, except for the last—they’re more like outlines. But together they’ll make your 2013 a double-yolk year.

Fried rice: for the basics, see the Jean-Georges genius tutorial. But—and this is crucial—make it less elegant: add some hearty greens, a spare amount of abandoned canned tomatoes, some poor huddled vegetable yearning to be free. And then drench your egg in fish sauce, plus chiles. Explain to the table that anyone who doesn’t want their egg drenched in fish sauce is wrong.

Restes: for braised leftovers—the liquid, the bits of meat, the mush of vegetables. Get your oven hot. Simmer up a good cup of leftover liquid and an equal amount of meat and vegetable scraps. Crack some eggs on top and bake until done. (Or do the whole thing on the stove: the same principles apply.) You’ll need bread.

From India: take a half-dozen eggs, whisk, dump in a hot, well-buttered saucepan. Add a chopped chile of your preferred heat. Instead of scrambling, fold the eggs toward the center, like folding sheets. Add a handful of golden raisins and the same of chopped cashews. Continue folding. Leave a touch wet. (From Mangoes and Curry Leaves, very loosely. A great book of Indian egg dishes remains to be written.)

Pasta: but do I need to say this? For nights when even carbonara is too hard, there is no shame in serving your children pasta with olive oil and garlic and parmesan and a fried egg on top. (You’re never too young to start eating like a bachelor.) For any residual guilt: frozen peas.

Frittata sandwiches: make your preferred frittata (mine is with a lot of sautéed chard and ricotta). Slice. Place on bread. Charge children $9 each and make them wait for a table.

And then there’s shakshuka.

Shakshuka had its moment in the States recently, but I worry that no one noticed. If you did, carry on. If not: Tunisian in origin, Israeli by adoption, tomato-sauced, spiced eggs. This version, tangy with dollops of yogurt, is from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s recent Jerusalem.

We ate it the other night. It went well with biscuits. Baby Mila decorated the floor with tomato-flecked egg whites. I was feeling pleased with myself. Eggs are a fittingly metaphorical way to begin the New Year, I was thinking. They’re embryonic.

“Dada?” Isaiah said, poking at his plate.

“Yes, Bean?”

“I hate eggs.”

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's Jerusalem (Ten Speed Press, 2012). I've fiddled with the eggs and shrunk the total quantities of tomatoes and harissa–feel free to add more, especially of the latter. —Nicholas Day

  • Serves 4
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon harissa (add more if desired)
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 2 large red peppers, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 (28-ounce) can of diced or crushed tomatoes
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup labneh or Greek yogurt
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. In a large saucepan -- ideally a pan you can cover with a lid later -- warm the olive oil over medium heat and then add the harissa, tomato paste, red peppers, garlic, cumin, and roughly 1/2 teaspoon salt. Saute for about 10 minutes, until the peppers soften. Add the tomatoes, bring to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened.
  2. Make a half-dozen little indentations in the sauce and then crack an egg into each. Simmer until the whites are gently set and the yolks are still wobbly; this will take around 10 minutes, but watch closely--the eggs go from undercooked to overcooked quickly. (If they're cooking very slowly, cover the pan and then peek.) Serve the eggs in the sauce, with the labneh or yogurt on the side. You'll want bread and a simple green salad.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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I'm the author of a book on the science and history of infancy, Baby Meets World. My website is nicholasday.net; I tweet over at @nicksday. And if you need any good playdoh recipes, just ask.

16 Reviews

lighthouse6 June 21, 2019
Just made these for breakfast. Similar to what we had in Israel Simple and yummy. Servings number should be changed as 6 eggs for 4 people does not make sense : )
 
Moire November 21, 2015
What would be a good substitute for harissa?
 
KM June 20, 2015
Delicious. Added some mint to the yogurt to good effect, dipped pita to soak up juices.
 
Sharon April 12, 2015
What? Shakshuka with no onions? WHY??
 
Boryana B. December 26, 2014
im having it at the moment love it
 
gina02 November 16, 2014
Just cooked this for the family Sunday dinner and it was a great success. I added softened leeks at the beginning, this will be made again!
 
X October 12, 2014
Stayed pretty close to basic recipe except, used unsalted tomatoes, added some baby spinach, and cooked the eggs till done (none of us can stomach slimy, runny eggs!) Sprinkled a little low-sodium feta and chopped parsley on top and served it with whole wheat pita bread and a salad. Very nice quick dinner.
 
Butterfield B. June 2, 2014
I just made this for our meatless Monday dinner and we loved it! I served it over polenta and it was rich and filling and just what I need to serve my family (who doesn't like the meatless meal concept but loved this!)
 
Daniel T. May 10, 2014
Added 8 medium-sized closed-cup mushrooms and it made it totally worth eating again!
 
jaredcotta20 May 5, 2014
This was such a fun and exciting dish. I've never cooked North African Mediterranean cuisine, but I am crazy about cultural dishes. Such a versatile recipe, combine with anything, and its great for Brunch or Dinner. Next time I make it I will probably add chickpeas or artichoke hearts for even more texture and flavor.
 
Susi May 1, 2014
Simple, honest, flavorful food--mmmmm! I served it over broiled polenta because I don't do bread; can also see it over a bed of wilted spinach. Keeper recipe!
 
Ruairidh V. March 21, 2014
Added some diced bacon and sautéed with the onions and peppers, which was lovely. Also didn't have any yogurt in the house so instead added half a can of coconut milk which added a slight sweetness. A lovely dish which you can do a lot of experimenting with. 9/10
 
Manhattan T. February 7, 2014
This is fabulous. I add a can of drained chick peas and use Anaheim chilis instead of red peppers. I've added onions & garlic as well, depending on time. Serve this with flat breads or Naan (Trader Joe's has both). Yum!
 
madleine January 3, 2014
Similar to a Greek variation as well! I love how different cuisines have come up with similar mixes (or exchanged ideas throughout history). I tried this and really liked it, thank you. :)
 
Ronald October 11, 2013
This is Arabic food, brought to israel by migrating jews.
 
Scottsdale B. June 9, 2013
Close to a recipe I used to make that I found in Gourmet Magazine in the late 60's or early '70's - Russian Eggs a la Wilson (Wilson was the reader who submitted the recipe). Eggs poached in tomato sauce, worcestershire, and beer. Sauteed garlic would have been a good addition. Served on toasted, buttered sourdough rye or pumpernickel bread. I think I'll make it again and kick it up with chipotle sauce.