With endless possible riffs on its original theme, shakshuka is the perfect dish to celebrate the harvest season in Northern Michigan. Dive in for the full On The Table recipe + advanced preparation tips.
A few years back shakshuka—the dish of eggs poached in a slurry of tomatoes and peppers—was having a moment. I had been tasked with reviewing all the noteworthy cookbooks that had been released that year for a holiday gift guide. In pawing through a stack of titles that was taller than I am, I realized that seemingly everyone had done a take on this colorful, one-pot breakfast. There was traditional shakshuka, there was shakshuka made with leafy greens like kale and chard, there was shakshuka with zucchini and feta, there was curried shakshuka and more. The dish’s name means “all mixed up” in Arabic and many food scholars trace the breakfast stunner to Tunisia, yet cookbook authors throughout the Maghreb and the Levant claim it as their own. “Shakshuka is one of those humble dishes that is decidedly North African, decidedly Israeli, with variations and [claims of ] ‘it’s ours!’ happening around the Mediterranean,” says Maureen Abood, a Lebanese cookbook author who splits her time between East Lansing and Harbor Springs. “Often, when a simple, humble dish like shakshuka gets known and made in neighboring cultures, the dish gets so embedded in that culture that next generations going forward believe it’s theirs,” the author of “Rose Water & Orange Blossoms” says.
While there may be debate about shakshuka’s origin story, there is no debate that September is the perfect time of year to make it. Personally, I prefer to leave all those lovely riffs behind, find a jar of spicy harissa and let the tomatoes and bell peppers we’ve waited for all season do the talking. What’s more? This is a recipe that actually benefits from slightly overripe tomatoes. Were your eyes bigger than your mouth at the market? Did you just spot a still-good-enough tomato on the ground that you missed? Treat those September beauties to a long, slow simmer, toss in a few barnyard eggs and start your morning far, far away in Morocco, Tunisia, Israel or Lebanon. You pick.
Spicy Shakshuka Recipe
- 1 red bell pepper, rinsed and dried
- 4 large overripe tomatoes, about 3 pounds
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tablespoon spicy harissa
- Zest and 1 Tablespoon of juice from a lemon
- 1 teaspoon cumin seed, freshly ground
- 1⁄2 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
- 4 eggs
- 1⁄2 cup flat leaf parsley
Photo by Dave Weidner
Shakshuka Directions + Advanced Prep Tips
1. Place a large, dry cast iron skillet over high heat and allow it to reach its smoking point. Place the red pepper onto the scorching hot pan so that it can blister and blacken, turning from time to time and pressing down gently with your tongs so the seeds crackle.
2. While the pepper is blackening, grate the tomatoes, running them over the coarse side of a box grater to collect as much of the flesh and juices as possible, discarding only the skin and stem. Set grated tomato, about 4 cups, aside.
3. Once the red pepper is blackened on all sides, place it in a large plastic bag, seal the bag, and set aside to steam. Lower the temperature of the pan to medium-low heat and allow to cool. Add the oil and onion, cooking until the onion slices are soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Stir in the grated tomato, harissa, lemon juice and zest, cumin, paprika and salt and allow to simmer until thick and darker in color.
4. While the shakshuka sauce cooks, remove the red pepper from the bag. Use your thumb to remove the skin and discard the blackened stem, and rinse away the seeds with a quick pass under cool running water. Slice the pepper into long, thin strips. Add most of the red pepper to the shakshuka sauce but reserve some strips for garnish. Continue cooking the shakshuka sauce until all pooled liquid has evaporated and the sauce is thick, with air bubbles opening at the surface from time to time, about 20 minutes.
5. Crack the eggs onto the top of the mixture being careful not to puncture the yolks. Drape a few red pepper slices onto the shakshuka between each egg and cover the pan, allowing to bubble and cook until the egg whites are set but the yolks are runny, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve with toasted sesame bread or a flatbread such as pita for dunking in those farm-fresh yolks.
ADVANCED PREPARATION: Recipe can be made through step 4 the night before. Cover the shakshuka sauce and refrigerate it overnight, rewarming it in the morning before proceeding with step 5.
Photo by Dave Weidner
Stacey Brugeman is a 20-year food and beverage journalist. Her work has appeared in Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, Saveure, Eater and on Instagram @staceybrugeman.
Dave Weidner is a local photographer for Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine. Follow him on Instagram @dzwphoto.
Sarah Peschel is a stylist and photographer with an appreciation for all things related to local agriculture, food and drink.