Shakshuka with bolillos, harissa, lebne, butter, and za'atar.

By mid-February, you may be finding it difficult to stick to those New Year's resolutions you set oh so long ago. For my part, one of the tricks that's helping me eat healthier on a regular basis is cook dates with my friends—you get to spend quality social time together without spending money on a restaurant meal or a bar tab, and if you have like-minded friends it's a great opportunity to cook healthy meals together. Plus, if you're lucky enough to have talented cooks as friends, you may learn a few recipes too.

Last night, my best friend cooked a pot of shakshuka for our dinner. This classic North African and Middle Eastern dish is eaten across many different cultures, but the basic gist is the same everywhere: sautéed tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, and spices topped with a few eggs, then baked and served with crusty bread for dipping. Not only is it incredibly healthy (and if you're carb conscious, just ditch the bread), it's also cheap and delicious. Part of what keeps the cost down, of course, is subbing eggs for meat. And though the cost of both proteins has gone up this year, a serving of two eggs (roughly 50 cents) is still a lot less than a serving of meat (roughly $1.50).

There are as many variations on shakshuka as there are ways to eat it. My best friend, who's Lebanese, eats hers with fresh bolillos from El Bolillo (30 cents each, as long as we're counting), plus a few extras on the side to tart things up a bit: tangy lebne (a cross between yogurt and cheese), spicy harissa, za'atar in olive oil for dipping, and some good, salted, room temperature butter for the crusty bread to indulge those Lebanese French tendencies. Shopping for the ingredients takes longer than cooking the dish itself; that's how fast you'll have dinner on the table tonight with this easy recipe—even faster if you've already sautéed the vegetables ahead of time, which you can easily reheat before you add the eggs.

Shakshuka

  • 8 Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped (can substitute two 14-oz. cans of tomatoes)
  • 1 T. tomato paste
  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into strips
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 t. sweet paprika
  • 1 t. cayenne (omit if you don't want your shakshuka spicy)
  • 6 eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste 
  • crusty white bread for dipping, lightly toasted

In a large sauce pan, sauté the garlic and onions in olive oil over medium heat until onions are translucent. Add a pinch of salt, then red peppers. Continue sautéeing for three minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, paprika, and cayenne and mix well. Cover the pan and let it simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.

Uncover and add one more pinch of salt and mix to blend. Gently crack eggs and drop them into the sauce without breaking the yolks. Cover the sauce pan once more and continue simmering over low heat for another 5 to 10 minutes or until eggs are cooked, but before the yolks are hard.

Scoop out two whole eggs per serving, then let your guests break open the soft yolks into their own shakshuka and enjoy. Serves 3.

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