Shakshuka with Feta and Pine Nuts

May 10, 2017

It's been awhile since my cooking set off the smoke detector.  I realized this as I stood on a chair in my living room, randomly stabbing at the innards of the dissembled device dangling from the ceiling, while a skillet of shakshuka bubbled away merrily on the stove.  The shrill beeping continued despite my best efforts, prompting Mike to emerge from the office to tell me that I should turn it off.  Such useful bits of advice are one of the many advantages of married life.  Another is having someone around who actually knows how to turn off the smoke detector.

Back at our rental townhome, I was an old hand with the smoke detector.  I had to be, since I set it off with a frightening regularity.  I don't know whether this means that I should be proud of my progress as a cook in the subsequent five years, or if I should be concerned that the smoke detectors in our current house are somewhat defective.  Maybe it's a little bit of both.  But the subject of smoke detectors made me feel nostalgic, so I went poking around my old Brooks Bakes Bread blog for my post about the Mexican fried pastry incident.  Key takeaways: 1) don't start ambitious cooking projects at 9 p.m. on a weeknight; 2) when deep-frying, it's pretty important to make sure your oil is at the right temperature; and 3) culinary disasters make for entertaining blogging material.

And that brings us back to my recent run-in with the smoke detector.  I was making shakshuka, a Middle Eastern and North African dish of eggs poached in tomato sauce (here's a non-traditional version I made with greens a couple years ago).  This version, adapted from the Star Tribune, starts with sautéing a mixture of onion and peppers, and then stirring in paprika and cumin for an incredible smoky flavor (fire alarm optional; I've tweaked the recipe and successfully made it without setting off the smoke detector).  Add some canned tomatoes, poach some eggs in the sauce, and garnish with toasted pine nuts, feta, and fresh cilantro.  I like to serve shakshuka with pitas from Holy Land, but it would also be lovely over a bed of couscous.

The original recipe calls for cooking the eggs for 10 minutes, or until barely set with runny yolks.  Since Mike has an aversion to raw or undercooked eggs (more cookie dough for me!) I cook the eggs for about 20 minutes, or until the egg whites are fully set and the yolks are almost cooked through.

Adapted from Meredith Deeds' recipe in the Star Tribune

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes with juices, tomatoes coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Toast pine nuts in a large skillet over medium heat until golden, about 5 minutes.  Remove from skillet and set aside.

Return skillet to stove and increase heat to high.  Add oil and tilt to coat evenly.  Add onion, bell pepper, and jalapeno pepper.  Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are charred, about 8 minutes. 

Reduce heat to medium.  Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds.  Add paprika and cumin and cook, continuing to stir constantly, for another 30 seconds.  Reduce heat to low.  Add tomatoes and their juices, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.

Make a well in the tomato mixture with a large spoon and crack one of the eggs directly into it.  Repeat with remaining 3 eggs.  Season eggs with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Cover skillet and cook until eggs are desired doneness, 10 minutes for barely set egg whites to 20 minutes for eggs that are completely cooked through.

Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts, feta, and cilantro before serving.

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