After a totally unexpected trip to Israel, my taste buds came home alive and well used from all the amazing dishes I experienced during my visit. I have a new appreciation for meatless dishes and a new level of respect for the use of fresh herbs and spices, which is the focus of most dishes there.
One particular dish that stood out for me because of its simplicity versus flavor reward was one called shakshuka; a very unassuming dish with eggs and fresh herbs as the star of the show. It can be had for any meal period, but most often at breakfast, similar to how ackee is eaten in Jamaica. That fact makes it a welcome addition at the table at any time and can be prepared pretty quickly and is always sure to impress.
This is one of those dishes where the finished product adds up to way more than the sum of its parts. A few obscure ingredients such as za’atar and sumac, and/or harissa are great, but not necessary to hit a home run.
- 3 tablespoons Coconut Oil
- ½ a large Onion, diced
- 1 large red Bell pepper, quartered and sliced crosswise into ¼-inch thick strips
- 1 large Garlic clove, peeled and thinly sliced
- ¾ teaspoon Sweet Paprika
- 1 tbsp Sumac
- ¼ teaspoon fine Sea Salt
- 1 (18-ounce) can whole peeled Tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon Harissa (can substitute scotch bonnet pepper sauce, just use much LESS)
- 4 – 6 fresh farm Eggs
- 1 tablespoon Za’atar
- Fresh Cilantro or Shadow Benny leaves, chopped for garnish
- Fresh curly leaf Parsley, chopped for garnish
- Lime wedges, for serving
- Boiled green Bananas
- In a 10-inch non-reactive skillet with a tight-fitting lid, heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened and beginning to caramelize, 8-10 minutes. Stir in the sumac and paprika and cook for 30 seconds. Add the salt, tomatoes and harissa. Bring to a low simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, using the kitchen spoon to break up tomatoes into smaller pieces until thickened to a stew-like consistency, 10-20 minutes. Taste, adding more salt if needed.
- Use the spoon to make 4-6 shallow wells in the stew, then crack open eggs in the wells. Cover the pan and return to a bare simmer. Cook until the eggs are gently set, 5-10 minutes. Serve the shakshuka topped with cilantro and parsley, a squeeze of lime juice, a sprinkle of za’atar, with boiled green bananas on the side. Serve immediately
Nigel Spence, a Culinary Institute of America alumnus, was born in Kingston, Jamaica. Nigel freelanced at the Television Food Network for 3 years where he worked with culinary luminaries such as Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse. Chef Spence has appeared twice on Throwdown with Bobby Flay where he emerged the victor in cook offs against the Food Network star and was featured on CBS when he appeared on Tony’s Table as well as ABC’s Neighborhood Eats, NBC’s The Today Show , Sirius’ Everyday Living with Martha Stewart and TVFN’s Chopped. The acclaimed and New York Times-reviewed Ripe Kitchen and Bar is Mr Spence’s first entrepreneurial endeavor.