The name may sound exotic, but this is a deliciously easy meal of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, peppers, and onions, with spices like cumin and paprika. Shakshuka originated in Northern Africa, yet it appears on brunch menus across the US and can be eaten for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, it truly is that amenable of a meal. I think this dish is perfect for a lazy Sunday when you want something that is both warming and comforting but takes less than 30 minutes to pull together.
I like to make Shakshuka in my large 12-inch cast iron skillet. If you don't have a cast iron skillet, don't panic, use your heaviest skillet with the most real estate (see photo) so you can nestle as many eggs on top as possible.
Seasoning a Cast Iron Skillet
One question a friend of mine asked while I was cooking was how to season a cast iron skillet. This really needs to be done only once after you bring your cast iron home. Scrub the skillet well with hot soapy water and dry thoroughly. Spread a thin layer of melted shortening or vegetable oil over the skillet and place it upside down on a middle oven rack at 375°. (Place a foil-lined baking sheet on a lower rack to catch drips.) Bake for one hour, turn off oven and let the skillet cool in the oven. From there on, you only need to be careful how you clean the skillet.
Cleaning a Cast Iron Skillet
Always wash the skillet by hand using hot water and a sponge or stiff brush. Avoid using the dishwasher, soap, or steel wool, as these may strip the pan's seasoning. If you have to scrub off stuck-on bits of food, scrub the pan with a paste of coarse kosher salt and water. Rub with olive oil or vegetable oil and place on the stove to heat through, then allow to cool. I heat my cast iron on the stove after we wash it to ensure all the water has evaporated and this will prevent rusting.
3 T olive oil, plus more for drizzling (I love California Olive Ranch EVOO)
1 onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, stems, seeds, and ribs removed, diced
1 hot chili (jalapeño, serrano, or Fresno), stems, seeds, and ribs removed, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 1/2 T paprika (sweet Hungarian or smoked Spanish)
2 t ground cumin seed
1-28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by squeezing between your fingers or with a pastry blender
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Large handful minced cilantro, parsley, or a mix of both
Toppings such as black kalamata olives, feta cheese, or artichoke hearts, for serving (all optional)
Crusty bread, for serving
Heat olive oil in a large, deep skillet or straight-sided sauté pan over high heat until shimmering. Add onion, red pepper, and chili and spread into an even layer. Cook, without moving, until vegetables on the bottom are deeply browned and beginning to char in spots, about 6 minutes. Stir and repeat. Continue to cook until vegetables are thoroughly softened and spottily charred, about another 4 minutes.
Add garlic and cook, stirring, until softened and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add paprika and cumin and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Immediately add tomatoes and stir to combine. At this point, you can use a pastry cutter to crush the tomatoes. Reduce heat to a bare simmer for 10 minutes, then season to taste with salt and pepper and stir in half of cilantro or parsley.
Using a large spoon, make a well in your pan for your first egg. I prefer to break the egg into a small bowl first, being careful not to break the yoke. By cracking the egg into a bowl first, you can ensure there are no shell pieces, and the yolk stays intact. Then carefully pour the egg from the bowl into your first well. Repeat with remaining eggs, working around the pan as you go. Season eggs with a little salt, cover, reduce heat to lowest setting and cook until egg whites are barely set and yolks are still runny 5 to 8 minutes.
Sprinkle with remaining cilantro or parsley, along with any of the optional toppings. Serve immediately with crusty bread.