Thursday, July 12, 2007

With an Egg on Top

Sometimes you learn a new recipe. And sometimes a recipe teaches you a whole new strategy for composing a meal.

As a fish-a-tarian who rarely cooks fish, my dinners usually fall into one of the following categories: Indian curry; risotto; pasta; veggie or legume-based soup; frittata/quiche; polenta. Until now. Welcome – the vegetable sauté with poached eggs on top.

The inspirational dish was chakchouka, an Algerian/Tunisian creation that, I discovered through a little online searching, was brought by North African immigrants to Israel and is also quite popular there (spelled shakshouka), especially during Passover. Chakchouka is basically eggs poached in a sauté of tomato, onion, green pepper and North African spices. It is so easy to put together – and so warming and flavorful – that you’ll start inventing many other vegetables sautés that could cushion an egg. I’m thinking tomatoes and zucchini with some fresh basil; mushrooms, leeks, parsley and thyme; veggies with Indian spices and a handful of brown lentils; and morshan. In my humble opinion, just like pasta, risotto, or quiche, chakchouka is a brilliant dinner template.

The other reason I love this dish is that I adore poached eggs, but am a failure at poaching eggs myself. (Here is where my husband would say: and you have the audacity to call yourself a food blogger? Yes, I know, I should be able to poach an egg.) I’ve even used those special poaching pans with the ready-made indents, and I still screw things up. Chakchouka is a foolproof way of producing lovely poached eggs, and it even comes with a bonus stew.

The recipe below calls for chickpeas, which are a North Africa ingredient, but are not traditional to chakchouka. To me, the chickpeas are what make this a dinner dish. (Chakchouka is traditionally eaten for breakfast or lunch.) For an added Tunisian touch, and some more heat, stir in a dollop of harissa when you add in the tomatoes.

North African Pepper and Tomato Stew (Chakchouka)
Adapted from The Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook
Serves 4

2 teaspoons / 10 milliliters olive oil
1 tablespoon paprika
½ large onion, cut in half widthwise and then into fine slivers
1 large green bell pepper, cut into 2-inch/5-centimeter long slivers
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 green chilies, seeded and cut into 2-inch/5-centimeter long slivers
1 teaspoon / 5 milliliters ground cumin
2 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 15-ounce/425-gram can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
½ cup/125 milliliters vegetable broth or water (more, if needed)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 large eggs

Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the paprika, and cook 10 seconds. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until they are lightly golden – about 2-3 minutes. Add the bell pepper, garlic, chilies and ground cumin, and cook, stirring often, for 3-5 minutes until the vegetables have softened. Add the tomatoes and chickpeas and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have broken down into a sauce, about 10 minutes. If, as the tomato cooks, the stew is getting too dry, add some vegetable broth (I used ½ cup). Season the stew with salt and pepper to taste.

Make four small indentations in each quadrant of the stew. One at a time, crack each egg and drop it into an indentation, taking care not to break the yolk. Cover the skillet and cook over medium-low heat until the eggs are set, about 5-7 minutes. Transfer one egg with stew to each plate, and serve immediately.


Anita said...

And I felt I was being very inventive when I made this!

The addition of chickpea would make it more filling and perfect for a meal other than just breakfast.

neroli said...

Carolyn, thank you for the beautiful recipe. Eggs are such a comfort food, and you've presented it so very beautifully.
Thank you!

Jeanne said...

Oh my husband will luuuuuurve this! He adores eggs and tomatoey vegetables - looks like his ideal dish! Thanks for sharing :)