Few things are as thoughtful a week-end brunch invitation. Sure, this posh week-end meal is commonly enjoyed in a restaurant, but nothing beats having a beautiful brunch with friends and family at home. I’ve always considered breakfast to be a meal that tastes better when someone makes it for you, but even serious entertainers often shy away from hosting a morning meal.
Cooks often feel pressured for time and serving up a big brunch often means huddling over the stove for much too long as you turn out eggs to order or make stack-after-stack of fluffy pancakes. Rather than sacrifice a relaxing morning, look to a communal brunch dish called shakshuka to ease a week-end kitchen burden.
Brimming with popular Tunisian spices like cinnamon and cumin, shakshuka is robust dish that serves six with ease and even offers some make ahead convenience. Restaurants chefs enjoy experimenting with their own versions of this classic North African dish, but proper shakshuka consistently features whole eggs gently poached in a spicy tomato sauce. My version, suitable for any home cook, starts with a traditional combination of sweet and spicy peppers cooked alongside sliced onions. The addition of high-quality canned, rather than fresh tomatoes, makes shakshuka an ideal winter dish. Not to worry, proper cooking times and adding a touch of brown sugar and balsamic vinegar to the mix helps round out any lackluster flavor lurking in the preserved tomatoes. From there I like to give a little nod to Morocco by adding a handful of chickpeas and a smattering of sweet raisins to this otherwise savory dish.
The tomato base can be made a day in advance and simply reheated before adding the eggs to the simmering sauce. Some folks prefer to finish shakshuka in individual portions, but I much prefer serving it from a large communal skillet. Either way, covering the egg whites with the warm sauce will help them to cook evenly while ensuring the bottom of the yolks do not harden before the outer edges have set. Scoop the finished shakshuka from the skillet at the table into individual bowls taking care to protect the delicate yolks when serving. Be sure to serve this cozy brunch dish with toasted pita triangles or crusty loaves of bread to sop up the spicy tomato sauce and golden yolks. All that’s left to do is brew a pot of coffee and enjoy the benefits of relaxed and wholesome week-end eating.
Shakshuka with Chickpeas and Raisins (six servings)
- ¼ Cup olive oil
- 1 medium sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 large red pepper cut, into strips
- 1 large yellow pepper, cut into strips
- 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1-3 red finger peppers or serrano chilies, seeded and minced
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 teaspoon cumin½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes in puree, crushed by hand
- ½ Cup water
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- ½ Cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- ½ Cup golden or crimson raisins
- 6 whole eggs
- ¼ Cup chopped Fresh parsley
- Toasted Whole wheat pita or crusty bread for serving
Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, red peppers and yellow peppers to the pan. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring occasionally for 12-15 minutes until softened and just beginning to brown. Add in the minced chilies, garlic, brown sugar, red pepper flakes cumin and remaining ½ teaspoon of salt. Mix well and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes until garlic is fragrant. Add the crushed tomatoes and all their juice plus the water to the pan and mix well. Allow the sauce to cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat for 15 minutes or until slightly thickened and flavors blend. Stir in the vinegar, chickpeas and raisins and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Shashuska can be made to this point, cooled and refrigerated overnight. Be sure to bring the sauce to a boil before proceeding with the recipe.
Make 6 wells in the sauce and a slide a cracked egg into each hole. Gently cover the whites with the tomato sauce. Cover the pan reduce heat to low and allow the eggs to cook for 6-8 minutes until the whites are set and the exposed yolks are still runny. Sprinkle the mixture with chopped parsley and serve at once with toasted pita for dunking.