This spicy shakshuka is all about the sauce

Becky Krystal

THE WASHINGTON POST – I’ve long been a believer that a good sauce can make a dish. In the case of this Spicy Red Shakshuka, the sauce is the dish.

Sure, there are a half-dozen sunny eggs dolloping the skillet, and the runny yolks are an attraction – but primarily for the way their creamy richness intermingles with the peppy sauce.

In fact, my tasters loved the sauce so much, several, including me, were happy to have an entire bowl of it.

The base is reliable canned crushed tomatoes (swap in diced if you prefer a chunkier sauce or, in the summer, about eight large ripe tomatoes, also diced). Then the layers of flavour come in: the mellowed pungency of garlic and onion, the kick of harissa and jalapeño and an earthy addition of cumin, paprika and caraway.

It’s wonderfully savoury – tomato paste helps amplify that umami flavour – but tempered with sweetness and spice.

Spicy Red Shakshuka. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

The recipe comes from Einat Admony, one of our favourite chef-authorities on Israeli food, whose falafel recipe we have also shared on Voraciously.

Shakshuka is closely associated with Israeli cuisine, but this recipe relies heavily on North Africa, which is where the dish likely made the jump from before spreading throughout the Middle Eastern nation.

Shakshuka is a welcome addition to the table no matter when you plan to serve it or how many people you plan to serve it to. Along with a little – or a lot of – bread to scoop up that delectable sauce, it makes a fine main course for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner.

Or it will play happily on a larger spread with a salad and other some bright finger foods, such as crudités, hummus and pickled vegetables.

Feel free to vary the number of eggs depending on the size of your meal or crowd, as well your skillet. Speaking of skillets, you can add this dish to your one-pan repertoire.

Because the sauce is easy to throw together and takes well to storing, you can make a batch at the beginning of the week to save for future meals. I’ve already started imagining other ways to use it – as the basis of a soup, thinly spread inside a grilled cheese, even tossed with pasta. I promise you’ll find every excuse to eat it, too.

SPICY RED SHAKSHUKA

Active:

40 minutes | Total: 1 hour 10 minutes

Shakshuka is closely associated with Israeli cuisine, but this recipe relies heavily on North Africa, which is where the dish probably made the jump from before spreading throughout the Middle Eastern nation.

This sauce features a delectable blend of sweet, savoury and spicy flavours, accented by cumin and caraway (trust us, it works). It pairs perfectly with rich, runny egg yolks, though we were happy to eat bowls of the sauce by itself, too.

The original recipe calls for filfel chuma, a chile- and garlic-heavy Libyan condiment, but we have taken up the authors’ suggestion to swap in harissa, fresh jalapeño and garlic. It also suggests topping the shakshuka with the peeled flesh of a charred, roasted eggplant. We found we got better results baking the assembled dish, but if you prefer, you can finish the eggs by covering the skillet and letting them cook over medium-low for seven to 10 minutes.

Serve with plenty of bread for scooping and sopping up the sauce.

Make Ahead: The sauce can be refrigerated for up to one week. Reheat it in the skillet over medium-low heat before adding the eggs, so they will set faster in the oven.

INGREDIENTS

Two tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

Two medium yellow onions, finely diced

One large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and finely diced

One jalapeño pepper

Two tablespoons tomato paste

One to two tablespoons harissa

Three cloves garlic, minced

One 28-ounce canned crushed tomatoes

Two teaspoons kosher salt

One teaspoon granulated sugar

One teaspoon sweet paprika

One teaspoon ground cumin

Half teaspoon ground caraway seed

Six to eight large eggs

Chopped fresh herbs, such as dill or cilantro, for garnish (optional)

Crumbled feta, for garnish (optional)

Challah, pita or crusty bread, for serving

STEPS

In a large skillet (at least 10 inches) over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering.

Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about six minutes. Add the bell pepper and jalapeño and cook, stirring occasionally, until just softened, three to four minutes.

Stir in the tomato paste, one tablespoon harissa and the garlic, and cook, stirring constantly, for an additional two minutes.

Stir in the crushed tomatoes, salt, sugar, paprika, cumin and caraway.

Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered until the sauce is thick and shiny, about 20 minutes. It will reduce somewhat, as well.

Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt or the remaining harissa, if you like it spicier. Meanwhile, position the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Remove the skillet from the heat. Using a large spoon, create little wells in the sauce. Carefully break one egg into a cup or ramekin, then slip it into one of the wells; repeat with the remaining eggs. (Cracking the egg into a cup first lets you inspect it for any runaway bits of shell.)

Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for about 12 minutes, until the egg whites are set, but the yolks are still a little runny.

Transfer the skillet to the counter and sprinkle with the herbs and feta.

Drizzle with more olive oil, to taste. Serve the shakshuka directly from the skillet, with plenty of bread.

Nutrition

Calories: 190; Total Fat: 10g; Saturated Fat: 3g; Cholesterol: 185mg; Sodium: 740mg; Carbohydrates: 17g; Dietary Fibre: 4g; Sugars: 10g; Protein: 10g.