These days our produce guy is all about tomatoes — big and small, ribbed, smooth, or pointy, red, yellow, green, or pearl — and at the rate I’m going, I am bound to turn into one very soon. I’ve been making tomato salads and sandwiches like they’re going out of style, I’ve been making tomato tarts and tomato tarragon bread soup, and I’ve been mixing batches of gazpacho.
(My two stand-by tomato tarts are the tomato tart tatin and the tomato mustard tart respectively featured in my first and second cookbooks. Get yourself a copy of Chocolate & Zucchini and of The French Market Cookbook today!)
Another one of my top uses for this tomato bounty is shakshuka, a preparation that can be found in slightly different incarnations across North Africa and the Middle East. My first encounter with it was in Janna Gur’s excellent Book of New Israeli Food, which I told you about here and here, and I have since become acquainted with the Tunisian version as well.
A not-so-distant cousin of Provence’s ratatouille, Corsica’s pebronata, and the Basque piperade, shakshuka is most commonly a dish of tomatoes stewed with onions, bell peppers, and chili peppers. This forms a thickish sauce, in which eggs are cooked — either scrambled or (my preference) undisturbed so they’re halfway between poached and sunny side up.
It is a simple, family-style dish that is quickly assembled, and highly flexible.
– add other vegetables, especially zucchini or eggplant that you’ll cook in the sauce; artichoke hearts, drained from a jar; and diced potatoes, which you should boil beforehand,
– substitute quality canned tuna or merguez (spicy beef sausages) for the eggs,
– garnish the dish with black olives and parsley or cilantro, as I like to do, or serve it plain,
– serve the sauce with lamb skewers or other grilled meats (just not pork, for cultural consistency),
– freeze the sauce for later use: think how thrilling it will be to eat shakshuka in November!
Some recipes call for roasting the bell peppers first, which is good if you find them hard to digest, but I don’t think anyone wants to fire up the oven more than strictly necessary when it’s hot out. Others suggest you peel the tomatoes, but it seems unnecessarily fussy to me.
If your spice rack boasts a Moroccan spice mix, such as ras el hanout, now would be a good time to use it, in place of the separate spices (cumin, caraway, paprika, turmeric, and cinnamon) I’ve included. And if you don’t have a mix, and you don’t have all the spices listed either, don’t worry about it too much and just use what you have.
About the cinnamon I use
I am in love with the fresh cinnamon I order from Cinnamon Hill, a small company that specializes in sourcing and selling the highest-quality, freshest cinnamon from Sri Lanka and Vietnam (ordinary cinnamon usually comes from China or Indonesia). I get whole sticks, and grate them with the beautifully crafted (and highly giftable!) cinnamon grater that Cinnamon Hill has designed. Truly, you don’t know what cinnamon tastes like until you’ve tried freshly harvested, freshly grated, top-grade cinnamon, and it makes an amazing difference in this recipe.
Get your FREE seasonal produce calendar!
If you're excited about greenmarkets, in Paris and beyond, you need my seasonal produce calendar; it's FREE to download! I've drawn up this handy guide to tell you what's in season when, and how long things will stay fresh, so you can cook healthy, colorful meals and not waste a single lettuce leaf, like, ever.
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