When Felix bounded out of the house to head back to Williamsburg earlier this week, it was not with a bang but a whimper. To further torture T.S. Eliot, the whimper was entirely mine when I opened the refrigerator to figure out dinner, and realized my beloved, recently departed son had left it a veritable waste land.
Once my eyes grew accustomed to the bizarre appearance of open space in my hitherto jumbled, bursting fridge, I realized that surely there was something in there that I could scrounge together into something I’d actually like to eat. The thing was, it was late, I was tired, it was cold, and I felt that Jeff and I could really use something that seemed more like comfort food than gourmet repast.
At least some eggs were there, and some feta cheese was twinkling away for starters, oh and a jar of harissa…then an image burst into my brain. I’d been looking at Yotam Ottolenghi’s great book “Jerusalem” the other day, for an unrelated issue. The gorgeous cover sprung into my mind and I raced for the book.
As is so often the case, I’d left myself a little gift tucked just inside the cover. There was a cutting from the New York Times with Melissa Clark’s recipe, “Shakshuka with Feta.” Ironically, when I really studied Ottolenghi’s recipe, I’m not convinced that the cover photo is of Shakshuka. Nonetheless, the visual image was enough of a bread crumb to bring this lost girl out of the woods to very quickly assemble and make this wonderful, heart warming and soul satisfying dinner.
As is often the case, I read both recipes and melded them together into something that worked for me. So, with thanks to Yotam and Melissa, I give you my Shakshuka. All I made to accompany it was lots of toast which was the perfect thing to scoop up all of the delicious eggy, spicy, tomatoey goo, and a very plain green salad.
Though I’d never have predicted it just an hour earlier, dinner was not only saved, but was a raging success. Come to think of it, maybe the day ended with a bang after all.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 tablespoons harissa
1 28 ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes
salt and freshly ground pepper
5 ounces feta cheese, chopped into 1-inch chunks
4 extra large eggs
Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and bell pepper. Cook gently until very soft about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until tender, about a minute. Stir in cumin, paprika and harissa and cook 1 minute. Poor in tomatoes, add salt and pepper to taste and simmer until the sauce is reduced and thickened, about 10 minutes.
Stir in feta and stir gently to combine. Gently crack the eggs over the tomatoes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the eggs are just set, 7 to 9 minutes. Keep track of them carefully because there’s just a brief moment when the whites are set while the yolks are still runny, and that’s the moment when you want to grab it out of the oven.
Serve with lots of crunchy toast.