If you’ve never heard of shakshuka, or aren’t sure how to even pronounce it, you are not alone (I pronounced it wrong for about a year after I’d first had it, you say it like “shack – shouk-ah” just to clarify).The first time I had it was last year when I was hanging out with a bunch of other food writing/shooting gals, one of whom was my dear friend Trish. She made a shakshuka for one of our shared meals and it was INSANELY good. Since that moment, I’ve made a point of ordering it anytime I see it on a menu. And since I always make a freeze multiple giant batches of tomato sauce every summer, I put a good amount of it to use making shakshuka at home to bring that summer tomato flavor to my kitchen.
What is Shakshuka?
It’s a north African and middle eastern dish that’s essentially a delicious pepper stew with a base of tomato sauce and onions, and eggs baked into the top. The trick is to just cook it until the whites of the eggs are barely cooked through, and the yolks are still runny. Basically you’ve got to watch it like a hawk the last 5 minutes of cooking to pull it out at the perfect jiggly-yolk moment.
My Secret Shakshuka Ingredient
I love making mine with a little twist, though, and that’s using delicious fresh ripe persimmons instead of fresh tomatoes. Let’s be honest—fresh tomatoes in the winter suck unless you live someplace very warm. Persimmons, however, have a very similar flavor and texture to a ripe tomato, and happen to be at their peak in the dead of winter. I recommend using canned or jarred tomato sauce to make this (and other recipe that call for tomatoes in wintertime, for that matter), since preserved tomatoes are processed and sealed in season when they’re most ripe and flavorful. It’s best to avoid making anything that calls for raw tomatoes until it’s summertime, and just substitute in some delicious persimmons instead! For me, shakshuka is an ideal wintertime food; it’s hot, it’s hearty, I can dip crusty bread in it, and it makes me feel full after but never too full, if you know what I mean. Plus it’s super healthy, too! There’s nothing not to love.
Shakshuka with Persimmons
This delicious pepper stew hails from north africa and the middle east, and is full of comforting spices and deep tannic flavors.
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion thinly sliced
- 2 red bell peppers seeded, quartered, and sliced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 pound persimmons coarsely chopped
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon aleppo pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 4 cups jarred or canned chopped tomatoes
- Flake kosher sea salt to taste to taste
- Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- 5 eggs
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro or parsley
- Good crusty bread to serve alongside
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium low heat. Add the onions and sauté until softened and transparent, about 10 minutes, stirring every 2 to 3 minutes. Add the bell peppers and continue cooking until they soften slightly and are very fragrant, about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring every couple minutes.
Add garlic, stir, and cook until fragrant, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the persimmons, tomato paste, paprika, aleppo pepper, coriander, and cumin and cook until the persimmons have softened and released their juices, about 6 to 8 minutes more.
Add the tomato sauce and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and continue cooking until the peppers soften, about 10 minutes.
Turn the heat off on the stovetop and add salt and black pepper to taste. Use the back of a spoon to create 5 wells in the top of the shakshuka, and crack an egg into each one.
Place the Dutch oven in the oven and bake until the whites are just barely set and the yolks are still jiggly, about 7 to 10 minutes. Keep a very close eye on it the last few minutes of cooking to make sure you don't overcook the eggs.
Remove it from the oven, top with with the fresh cilantro, and serve alongside the crusty bread.