Food and Friends with History
With origins in the Ottoman Empire, shakshouka — a tomato-and-pepper-based stew — has made its mark around the world, namely in North African and Eastern Mediterranean countries and widely popular in Israel. This version, Shakshouka Tala, is the Tunisian version with eggs, and includes ground cumin and caraway seeds.
My old (meaning longtime!) friend, Michelle, often posts about food on Facebook. It’s always interesting to read about mealtime in her household. Along with the workarounds for dietary restrictions and hearing about holiday goodies, there’s also the hilarity of teenage-pickiness added to the mix. In other words, since I don’t have teenagers, it’s a hoot to read about the activity at her house!
Along with her good taste in music, I trust Michelle’s taste in food. At one point she mentioned shakshouka — a dish I’d never heard of but was eager to try. She said she’d first had it as a college student in Israel (personally made for her by a handsome Israeli – ah, the good old days!) and that it’s a staple that most kids learn to make while serving in the Army.
Michelle gave me her recipe from the cookbook, Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World, by Gil Marks. I learned that there are many similar versions of the dish served around the world. This recipe includes several variations of the dish, and I opted for the Tunisian version.
It’s easy to make, filling, inexpensive and can be spicy if you choose. Perfect served with brown rice or pita bread, you can add or subtract ingredients as you wish – it’ll still be delicious!
Adapted slightly from Gil Marks’ version in Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World. On its own, this is a great gluten-free dish.
Recipe for Shakshouka Tala (Tunisian Tomato and Pepper Stew with Eggs):
Serves 3-4 people
Shakshouka Tala: A Well-traveled, Tomato-and-Pepper-based Stew
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 bell peppers, seeded and diced
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
- 1-1/4 pounds plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (about 3 cups – I used canned plum tomatoes)
- 1 teaspoon kosher or coarse salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1-1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds
- 2- teaspoons paprika
- Optional: 1-2 tablespoons harissa (Northwest African chili paste) or 3-5 drops of hot sauce
- 3-4 large eggs
- Add the olive oil to a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until soft and translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the peppers and caraway seeds. Sauté until the peppers are crisp-tender (about 5 minutes).
- Add the tomatoes, cumin, salt, tumeric, paprika and the harissa or hot sauce if you’re using. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are soft (about 15 minutes).
- Use the back of a spoon to make indentations in the stew for the eggs. Carefully break the eggs one at a time into a small dish and slide each carefully into each indentation. Cover the pan and cook over low heat until the eggs are set to your liking (for soft yolks, about 5 minutes). If you prefer, divide the tomato and pepper mixture between 3-4 ovenproof ramekins. Make an indentation in the middle of each and add the eggs. Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F. until the eggs are set to your liking (for soft yolks, about 10 minutes). Serve with brown rice or pita.