There are few ingredients that provide the basis for such a vast array of dishes like the tomato.
If you had never looked into the history of the fruit, you would probably assume it originated in Italy, what with that country making it the star ingredient in some of their most iconic recipes.
But the tomato does not come from Italy; it doesn’t even come from Europe. No, the tomato in wild form originated in the country of Peru, and as far as we can tell, it was pre-Colombian Mexican cultures that first domesticated the plant.
Soon after explorers began landing on the shores of modern-day Mexico, the tomato was ushered around the world and quickly became a key ingredient in dishes we all know and love. From pizza to pico de gallo to gazpacho, countries — and cultures from all over — put this new fruit to good use.
As the tomato made its way around Europe, it was also making its way into North Africa and the Middle East, where various cultures adapted dishes around it.
One such dish we now know as shakshuka. This tomato and egg dish has roots in the tomato-based stews which have long been popular in the Middle East.
Using a base of tomatoes, chili peppers, and garlic, eggs are then poached on top until they set. The dish is wonderful as the acid of the tomatoes balances the fat of the runny egg yolk, and the simplicity of it makes it perfect for any meal of the day.
To get a recipe for shakshuka and to hear my co-host Chef Tom and I discuss a bit more about its history, listen here:
For the seasonings:
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp sweet paprika
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp ground caraway seed
- 1 tsp smoked salt
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
For the sauce:
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cups yellow onion, diced
- 1 large red bell pepper, diced
- 1 large jalapeno, diced
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1/4 cup garlic, minced
- 1 (28 oz) can San Marzano tomatoes
- 2 cups spinach leaves, chopped
- 6-8 eggs
- 2 1/2 oz crumbled feta cheese
- Fresh ground black pepper
- Crusty bread, for serving
- Warm a 12” cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil. When the oil is hot add the onions and peppers and cook until the onions are translucent and softened, stirring occasionally.
- Combine the seasoning ingredients in a small bowl and mix.
- Add the seasoning mixture, tomato paste and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for one minute.
- Stir in the tomatoes, breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon as you stir. Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat to reduce and thicken the sauce. Add the spinach and stir to incorporate, then remove from the heat.
- Using the back of a spoon create 6-8 evenly spaced depressions in the sauce. Crack an egg into each depression. Sprinkle the feta over the sauce, taking care not to break the egg yolks. Grind black pepper over the eggs.
- Place the skillet on the grill, close the lid and cook at 350ºF just until the egg whites are set, about 15 minutes.
- Serve the Shakshuka with slices of crusty bread.