Friday, January 8, 2010


I’d heard a bit about Shakshuka, and it sounded so perfect for a vegetarian meal, I was immediately intrigued. Sweet Amandine posted a recipe, and tomato season hit, and suddenly, the stars were aligned.

1 large yellow onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 28 oz. can of whole tomatoes
1 T. tomato paste
1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
4 large eggs
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (or more)
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped fresh cilantro
1 bunch fresh spinach
1 cup brown rice

Bring the 1 cup of brown rice to a boil in 2 cups water. Turn the flame to low, and allow the rice to simmer gently until all of the water is absorbed (approximately 40 minutes).

Slice the onion into thin rounds and sauté in about a tablespoon of olive oil. Once the onions are translucent, add the chopped garlic. When the aroma of the garlic rises, stir in the tomato paste. Then, pour the can of tomatoes, juices and all, into the pan. Break up the whole tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Season with the cayenne pepper and salt. Stir. Allow the tomatoes and onions to simmer insistently; the goal is to reduce some of the liquid in the pan. Give it a stir every now and then. When the sauce thickens (approximately 20 minutes), stir in the drained black beans. Once the beans are heated through, use the back of a wooden spoon to make four round indentations in the bed of simmering vegetables. Crack one egg into each little hole. Cover the pan, and allow the eggs to poach for 3-4 minutes. Don't let the yolks firm up all the way. (Unless, for some reason, you have something against gorgeous yellow yolks seeping deliciously into your rice and tomatoes.)

Meanwhile, heat a few dribbles of olive oil in a second pan and sauté the spinach until it is just a little wilted. It should only take a couple of minutes.

Spoon a little mound of brown rice onto each plate. When the eggs are finished, scoop out each one, together with its tomato-y bed, and place over the rice. Sprinkle with a pinch of cilantro, and drop a few forkfuls of spinach on the side.

Serves 2-4 people, depending on whether you and your guests prefer one egg or two. (What with the beans and rice, one egg happens to be plenty filling.)

Comments: The good thing about vegetarian dishes is that even when they don’t work out for you, they’re rarely inedible. This was the case with this one. I subbed white beans for black, since that’s what I had cooked, and otherwise stuck to the recipe.

The spinach was the first disappointment. It sat by its lonesome, despite my efforts to include it in the mix. The flavors just didn’t meld and include it as they should. The rice had an easier time, being underneath everything. However, the biggest issue was that my egg never really cooked. I made two attempts, the second with a bit higher heat, and fully covered, and had marginally better results, but this still didn’t compete with the idea in my head. I may try this again, with a different recipe, or may just wait until it crosses my way in a professional context.

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