A week ago, I’d never heard of shakshuka. What a difference a week makes.
After several very hearty and meaty meals, I was very much looking forward to lightening up with some vegetarian dishes. Always in search of new ideas, I turned to Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty, a vegetarian cookbook with page after page of amazing options. The story he told of enjoying this dish at a shabby street side café in Jaffa grabbed me and the ingredient list kept me glued to the page. Served with a couple slices of kalamata olive bread for sopping up the sauce, this meal hit all the right notes.
slightly adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi, Plenty
3/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 c. olive oil
2 large onions, sliced
2 red bell peppers, cut into 3/4-in. strips
2 yellow bell peppers, cut into 3/4-in. strips
1 TBSP dark brown sugar
2 bay leaves
6 thyme sprigs, leaves removed and chopped
2 TBSP chopped cilantro
2 TBSP chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
6 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp. saffron threads
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
salt and pepper, to taste
up to 1 c. water
1. In a very large saute pan, heat oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and cumin and saute 5 minutes. Add the peppers, sugar, and herbs and cook 10-15 minutes to develop color.
2. Add the tomatoes, saffron, cayenne, and salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and cook 15 minutes, adding water, 1/4 c. at a time, so the mix has the consistency of thick pasta sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning so mix is potent and flavorful. (This mix can be made the day before.)
3. Remove bay leaves. Divide pepper mixture among four small deep pans or keep in large pan. If using four smaller pans, place on medium heat a few minutes to warm up.
4. Make wells for all the eggs and carefully break eggs into wells. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cover with lids. Cook on very low heat approximately 10 minutes, until eggs are just set. Sprinkle with additional parsley and serve.