In my opinion, summer is by far the best time of year. Give me sunshine. Give me flip flops, shorts and a tee, that’s when I’m most comfortable. Throw in a lazy day at the beach and I’m as happy as a clam.
And of course this…summer’s bounty — tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, chiles, zucchini, summer squash, corn, onions, etc. The possibilities are endless, whether it’s sauce or salsa, ratatouille, briam, gratin, tian, roasted, grilled, or raw. I love it all. Freshness and simplicity is my summer mantra.
On the menu is shakshuka, a North African dish of eggs poached in a (spicy) tomato-based sauce. Today, I made a slightly different version of shakshuka than I have in the past. This version includes smoky eggplant and roasted peppers, along with a sprinkling of sumac which adds a pleasant tart, lemony flavor to the finished dish. In the past I’ve added harissa (a spicy chile based condiment) to my shakshuka, but omitted it in this version. Instead I added a couple of chiles (serrano/jalapeno) for heat. Although, If you happen to have some harissa stashed in your fridge, you could always serve the shakshuka with a side of harissa, along with a fresh crusty baguette, pita or flatbread.
I particularly love the addition of the charred eggplant. It lends a smoky flavor to the dish, like you would find in baba ganoush. Although, I recently read that what you typically find advertised as baba ganoush — charred eggplant, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and salt — isn’t really baba ganoush(??). There’s moutabel and then there’s baba ghanoush. Both are made with eggplant, but moutabal is typically smokier and includes tahini, whereas, baba ganoush does not include tanihi and incorporates diced vegetables. This is the first I’ve heard of this. You learn something new every day.
So, getting back to the eggplant, there are several methods you can use for charring the eggplant: over the flame of a gas stove top, grill pan on the stove top, gas or charcoal outdoor grill (or under the broiler but the eggplant won’t get that nice smoky flavor with this method). I prepared mine the gas stove top method, but if I had a charcoal grill going, I would opt for that method. The eggplant is cooked until the skin is charred and smoky and the eggplant is very tender.
I prepare the the peppers in the same manner, on the gas top grill until the skin is completely charred. Once the skins are nicely charred, you’ll scoop out the flesh of the eggplant and the skins of the peppers will slide right off. The charred bits are discarded.
From there, everything with the exception of the eggs go into a pan and simmer for 1 hour until all the vegetables are cooked down, concentrated, and oh so flavorful. Then make a few wells in the sauce, crack in the eggs, cover and cook until the egg whites are just set, the yolks runny.
It’s one of my all time favorite dishes (breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner)!
I cooked the eggplant on a gas stove top, turning the eggplant with metal tongs every few minutes, until all sides were nicely charred and the eggplant was completely tender and deflated…
The (anaheim) peppers were cooked in the same manner, on the gas stove top until all sides were nicely charred. Once cool to the touch, the skins should slice right off, seed, and chop…
To skin the tomatoes, make a shallow X through the skin on the bottom side of the tomato. Then, I quickly blanched the tomatoes in boiling water for 45 to 60 seconds, thereafter, plunged them into an ice bath. The skins will peel right off…
Everything goes into one pan, cooks down for 1 hour and then the eggs are poached…
Serve with crusty bread, flatbread, or pita and dig in…
Shakshuka with Smoky Eggplant
1 medium to large Italian eggplant
3 Anaheim peppers (or small poblano peppers)
3 medium to large tomatoes
1/4 cup of olive oil, plus extra for drizzling over the finished dish
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 to 2 jalapeno or serrano chiles, minced, more or less depending on desired level of heat
1 medium white onion, diced
salt and pepper
6 large eggs
cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
Char the eggplant: Place the eggplant over the gas range of your stove top. Cook the eggplant, turning with metal tongs, until the eggplant softens and collapses and its skin completely blackened on all sides. Slice the eggplant open and scoop out the interior flesh (which will have a nice smoky flavor).
Char the peppers: Place the whole peppers over the gas range of your stove top, turning the peppers every few minutes until charred on all sides. Place the peppers in a paper bag for 5 to 10 minutes to help loosen the skins. The skins should slide right off. Slice open, remove the seeds, roughly chop.
Skin the tomatoes: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Prepare an ice water bath. Make a shallow X through the skin on the bottom side of the tomato. Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for 45 to 60 seconds, thereafter, plunge them into an ice bath. The skins will peel right off. Roughly chop the tomatoes.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and let sizzle for 30 seconds to a minute. Add the garlic and jalapeno and saute 1 minute. Add the eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and their juices, and onion. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to boil, turn down the heat and let simmer until the vegetables are cooked down, 1 hour. Give the vegetables a stir from time to time. If the sauce becomes too dry, add a little water (I added the juices from a can of tomatoes, about 1/3 cup total).
After 1 hour, using the back of a spoon, make 6 small wells in the sauce. Crack an egg into each well. Cover the pan and continue to cook until the egg whites are set and the yolks are still runny.
Garnish with cilantro leaves, sumac, and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with crusty bread.