Have you ever come up with a dish that is so tasty you think you invented it yourself, only to find out later that it’s actually one of the great national dishes of not one but many different nations?
Well, that happened to me when I thought I was a culinary genius for coming up with the most delicious breakfast egg dish I’d ever eaten. I was simply using leftover ingredients that I had on hand from my mostly Italian/Sicilian/Mediterranean cooking. Well, little did I realize that everywhere from Palestine to Turkey to Lebanon and Algeria, everyone has been making this dish, or something very similar to it: Shakhshouka (also spelled Shakshuka).
In Turkey, the same ingredients (onion, peppers, tomato sauce) are used but the eggs are scrambled and the dish is called Menemen. An Italian version might use leftover tomato sauce, and in Algeria or Morocco they spell it Chakchouka. In some Middle Eastern recipes they add nutmeg; I do not ever put nutmeg in mine.
I recently worked on a video project for American Muslims for Palestine called Turning Tables, so watch out for that to be published in the near future. I was asked to make a Palestinian recipe or one that was inspired by Palestinian cuisine, so I decided to make my version of Shakhshouka, inspired by the cookbook, The Gaza Kitchen by Laila Al-Haddad, which now has a new and updated version.
Here is how I make my Shakshouka:
2 tablespoons good quality olive oil
½ onion, thinly sliced
½ large green pepper, thinly sliced
½ large red pepper, thinly sliced
½ thinly sliced jalapeno pepper or one whole serrano pepper
½ teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
4 pastured eggs
1-2 tablespoons crumbled feta
Freshly chopped Italian curly parsley
Fresh pita or rustic bread
Gently warm the olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the onion, green and red peppers and jalapeno. Cook until the peppers have softened. Add the sea salt and ground pepper as they cook.
Add the tomato paste and swirl around the pan to dissolve it as much as possible. Add 1-2 teaspoons of water to thin it out. Add the paprika. Cook until the water has mostly evaporated.
With a wooden spoon, carve out 4 round spots in the pan and crack one egg into each spot. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let cook until the white membrane of the eggs have cooked and whitened.
Remove from heat and drizzle the dish with olive oil, the crumbled feta and chopped parsley. Serve family style on a hot plate on the table, with fresh and warm pita bread.
Bismillah and Sahtein!
You can see a slightly different, faster version that I made for breakfast recently and posted on my Instagram page: