Before we start discussing anything, I’d like to tell you right away what not to do when you make Shakshuka. Do not burn it!
OK, now let’s take a few steps back and start from the beginning.
When I saw this photo in Sunset magazine (09/09 issue) for Paprika Tomatoes with Poached Eggs (Shakshouka), it has struck a chord with me. In an instant it reminded me of a similar dish that my father once cooked for us. It happened 6 years ago.
I told you a bit about my father and our family history in some posts, and you might know that he passed away about 7 weeks ago.
We did not share too many meals together as most of my life we lived in different continents. But the sight of that photo with the eggs cooked in tomato sauce brought up a very good memory of him which I would like to cherish.
Thank you Foodbuzz for accepting my proposal to write this post.
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6 years ago my first child was born. I was in a new country away from my family and friends. At that time, with only one week apart, my best friend and my cousin gave birth to their first children in a different place across the ocean. It was very depressing for me to go through this exciting time pretty much alone. Shortly after the birth, my father came to visit us. He helped me a lot and supported me when I needed it the most. He was there, patient, helpful, understanding, supporting, and trying to do whatever he can to lend a hand.
He sure did a lot.
He taught me that wiping a baby’s tooches all day long with only wipes is not good. “You have to wash a baby’s bottom with water a soap”, he said and showed me how to do it.
He changed diapers too, gave baths, and even babysat for the kids
He played with them
… and he played for them (the guitar is now standing in the corner of our family room, waiting quietly to be played again)
He made sure to come and celebrate our birthdays
And he cooked us a few dinners.
Only… he burnt most of them.
Well, some of it was still edible but each person got a smaller portion. I kind of like the taste of little bits of charred food,but in small quantities, you know… So this has started a joke and from that time on my husband and me used to tease him and say that he always burns the food when he cooks. He, of course, denied it.
In the past 8 years we got to meet 1-2 times a year. We ate out together, I cooked for him, he cooked for me, but I will never forget this particular dish that he cooked for us in our home. He had no recipe. In fact, he never used any written recipes. Like in many other areas of life so with cooking, he improvised and was optimistic about the results. His style of cooking was simple as he was a simple man who didn’t like to make things complex. He was down to earth, used basic ingredients, was a bit traditional, and not very fancy. A steak/chicken/salmon/lamb chops with mashed potatoes/fries and grilled vegetables kind of guy.
On that particular night, my husband and I were busy trying to calm down our non-stop crying baby. The only thing that calmed the baby down was when my husband put him in his car seat on the laundry dryer and turned the machine on. (Talk about feeling like failure as a new mom! I couldn’t calm my baby but the dryer was doing it!!!) Meanwhile, my dad cooked dinner, eggs cooked in tomato sauce. Burnt a la mode.
There are many recipes for this dish on the internet but I was looking for one that was the most simple and basic, like my father was, and with ingredients that I always have in the pantry (and most chances that you have them too) so whenever I think about him and I’m hungry, I can make it immediately.
I feel like this particular dish will always remind of him. One recipe that connects us and another way to remember him and the few good years that we had together.
I miss you, David.
My recipe is based on one I found on Epicurious.com as the story behind it was very convincing that this IS the one recipe.
Makes 2-4 servings
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
black pepper, ground
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon tomato paste
In a 10-12 inch skillet, heat the olive oil and garlic over medium heat until the garlic starts to release its aroma.
Remove the skillet from the heat source and carefully add the canned tomatoes (it will sizzle). Add the salt, black pepper, paprika, and tomato paste, stir. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, over low heat until it thickens, for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Break the eggs over the tomato sauce and season with more salt and pepper. Increase the heat to medium, cover and continue to cook for about 4-7 minutes, until the eggs are set and their tops look white and not runny (but still soft inside), or cook longer as you like.
Bring the skillet to the table. Serve with rustic bread or warmed pita.
Use fire roasted tomatoes for a more smoky flavor
Add onions, peppers, arugula, spinach, chilies… Sauté them before adding the tomatoes.
Add spices: chili powder, cumin, hot paprika
Garnish with parsley, cilantro, cheese, sour cream
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