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Around the World in Eight Courses: Egypt, on the Way to the Suez Canal and India

We’ve come round the bend and into the Mediterranean Sea.shakshouka  We’re stopping in Alexandria, Egypt, on our way  through the canal to India.  We’ve been traveling by steamer all night, and are in need of a hearty late breakfast/early lunch meal that includes both lots of veggies and some protein, but not a heavy protein.  The answer is shakshouka.

The word comes either from the Berber word chakchouka, which means vegetable stew, or from the Hebrew leshakshek, which means shake.  Its origin is somewhat disputed; some think it is originally an Israeli dish, others insist its origin is Tunisia, and some of those think that it originated with Tunisian Jews.  Whatever the origin, it is highly popular throughout Mediterranean Africa, especially in Egypt. The upshot throughout the region is that it is sort of a shaken mixture.  That defines it quite well.

In any case, it is a mixture of fragrant spices, and  is served with an egg poached in the vegetable stew and cut-up pitas, to soak up the juices and the egg yolk.

And it is really tasty.  Here’s the recipe:

Shakshouka

Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil
3 Anaheim chiles (or 4 or 5, if you like it spicy) stemmed, seeded, and coarsely chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 head of garlic, top trimmed off and roasted*
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed

1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes with juice, crushed
1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6 eggs
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
Warm pitas, for serving

Preparation:

*Roasted garlic: preheat the oven to 350.  Slice off the top of the garlic head, drizzle 1 teaspoon olive oil over the exposed cloves; leave the head otherwise intact.  Wrap the garlic in aluminum foil and roast for 45 minutes; remove from oven, cool until warm but safe to touch.

Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add chiles and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic (squeeze the garlic from the skins), cumin, paprika, and fennel, and stir to mix well and heat throughout, about 2 more minutes.

Crush the tomatoes in a bowl by hand and add with the liquid to skillet along with 1/2 cup water; reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

Crack eggs over sauce so that eggs are evenly distributed across sauce’s surface. Cover skillet and cook until yolks are just set, about 5 minutes. Using a spoon, baste the whites of the eggs with tomato mixture, being careful not to disturb the yolk. Sprinkle with feta and parsley and serve with pitas, for dipping.

Thanks to Deb Perelman at Smitten Kitchen for the foundation of this recipe, with which I started, but then altered just a bit after trying several varieties.

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