Seasonal Cooking 26 Mar 2013 08:19 pm

Shakshuka, or Eggs Poached in Spicy Moroccan Tomato Sauce

here’s the recipe for shakshuka

Shakshuka | Moroccan EggsWhen it comes to making up my own recipes, I can do pretty well combining ingredients and wrangling techniques. But I have a lot less confidence with mixing spices. I grew up with curry powder and Lawrie’s seasoned salt – that is, pre-made mixtures that add a pre-fabricated flavor to a dish and spare the cook the need for – and knowledge of — composing flavors for himself. This dilemma is especially true when I’m approaching a cuisine that I don’t have much experience with. A cuisine I haven’t spent a lot of time cooking or even eating. A cuisine, say, like Moroccan.

I first heard of shakshuka in a bagel shop in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn. Along with their bagels and cream cheese they offered as short list of special menu items. I was crazy for one of them, a dish of eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce, but I could only ever refer to it as “Moroccan eggs” since I could never quite memorize its strange and usual name. By the time I was finally Peppers Ready for Shakshukaable to say “shakshuka,” the shop had closed and I was left to search the neighborhood for another place that served this delicious dish. Much later, I came to learn that shakshuka is a common staple throughout North Africa. It came to be popular in Israel as well, brought over by immigrating Tunisian Jews.

As you’d expect of a dish that’s widely enjoyed across a huge area, there are myriad and widely varied recipes. When I set out to make my own, though, I didn’t find a recipe that quite matched how I’d imagined it. It made me realize that I wanted to invent my own version, according to my imagined idea of what “Moroccan” tastes like. And I wanted to face up to my spice-mixing phobia.

I got a little help from an unusual book called The Flavor Bible, which purports to be a guide to the components of the flavors created by chefs across the globe. But otherwise I trusted my instincts. “Moroccan,” for my first shakshuka, would mean lots of cumin, balanced by citrusy coriander, parsley and mint. For spicy heat I used peperoncini or “Italian hot peppers.” I could’ve also used paprika, or cilantro, or tumeric, or even Peppers Ready for Shakshukacinnamon, but I resolved that for this first batch to keep things simple.

The result, if not exactly how I remember it from the bagel shop, was awfully tasty. I served it up with plenty of feta cheese on the side, and some thick pillowy pitas I’d picked up in the Middle Eastern enclave of Astoria. When I make this dish again I might add a teaspoon or two of paprika, but at least I’ll be a little less afraid of dipping into my spice rack without the guide of a recipe.

One Response to “Shakshuka, or Eggs Poached in Spicy Moroccan Tomato Sauce”

  1. on 31 Mar 2013 at 2:30 pm 1.Gordon Klopfenstein said …

    Are you the same David Klopfenstein whose parents had to practily hog tie to get anything in his mouth and after they got them there, he kept pieces of hot dog in his mouth for two hours before chewing and swallowing them? And now you’re eating this?

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