Shakshuka and My First Experience with Cast Iron

I recently picked up a couple of pieces of cast iron cookware to try. I’ve been reading a lot about it, particularly in the Cast Iron Cookbook group on Facebook. I am a cast iron newbie, and have been reluctant to try it because I was under the impression that it couldn’t be used on glasstops. Wrong! It is in fact safe to use on glasstops; just no sliding across the top, and take care when you put it down on the top. The pans I picked up were pre-seasoned Lodge cast iron. Some people recommended seasoning them, some said it was okay to just wash with hot water and use them. With my first piece, I just washed the pan and got going.

My good friend posted a picture of Shakshuka that he had made for dinner and I got inspired. Shakshuka is a lovely dish of Tunisian origin, eggs cooked softly in a spicy tomato sauce. First introduced and popular in Israel, is a staple of Middle Eastern cuisines, and is traditionally served in a cast iron pan or tajine with bread to mop up the sauce. There are many different variations on Shakshuka, below is my version of this delicious dish (adapted from Tori Avey’s page). Next I believe I will tackle Yotam Ottolenghi’s and Sami Tamimi’s version in the stunning Jerusalem cookbook.

I use harissa-infused olive oil in this recipe, but plain olive oil works just as well. I also used fresh tomato sauce that my mom canned in the summer. Luckily I was the beneficiary of a good supply of pints of this summer deliciousness.

Oh, and as for the cast iron….I’m in LOVE!!! 🙂

Shakshuka

2 tbsp harissa-infused olive oil
1/2 medium brown or white onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 14 oz. can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 14 oz. can tomato sauce
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp medium chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp hot Spanish paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
5-6 eggs
1/2 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro (optional)

Heat a deep, large skillet or sauté pan on medium. Slowly warm the olive oil in the pan. Add chopped onion and sauté for a few minutes until the onion begins to soften. Add the garlic and continue to sauté till mixture is fragrant.

Add the bell pepper, sauté for 5-7 minutes over medium until softened.

Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste to the pan, stir till blended. Add the spices, stir well, and allow mixture to simmer over medium heat for 5-7 minutes till it starts to reduce. Taste the mixture and spice it according to your preferences. Add salt and pepper to taste, a bit of sugar if you like a sweeter sauce, or more cayenne pepper for a spicier Shakshuka (be careful with the cayenne… it is extremely spicy!).

Crack the eggs, one at a time, directly over the tomato mixture, making sure to space them evenly over the sauce. I usually place 4-5 eggs around the outer edge and 1 in the center. The eggs will cook “over easy” style on top of the tomato sauce.

Cover the pan. Allow mixture to simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked and the sauce has slightly reduced. Keep an eye on the skillet to make sure that the sauce doesn’t reduce too much, which may lead to burning.

If you like your eggs runny with Shakshuka, let the sauce reduce for a few minutes before cracking the eggs on top. Then cover the pan and cook the eggs to taste.

Garnish with the chopped cilantro, if desired; and serve with a warm, crusty bread to mop up the sauce. Enjoy! 🙂

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