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Shakshuka (Tunisian Tomato, Pepper, and Cauliflower Sauce With Eggs)

June 21, 2021

When I visited Beit Shemesh, not far from Jerusalem, earlier this spring, almonds were bursting into white bloom in the countryside. I was in search of good home cooks, and here in the biblical home of the Kohanim, the priests of the tribe of Levi, I found them.

Beit Shemesh has long been an immigrant town. After World War II, Holocaust survivors settled there, followed by North African immigrants and, most recently, Russians. In the 1980s, Mickey Blumberg, a South African immigrant living in Jerusalem, started the Women’s Empowerment Program in the Negev, and in 2004, she brought it to Beit Shemesh. With support from the South African Women’s Zionist organization, the program offers low-income women seed money to develop small businesses—sponsoring open houses that showcase cooking projects and getting micro-dairies and olive-oil presses off the ground—and organizes overseas trips for them to introduce their food to Jewish communities around the world. “In the 1980s, the Beit Shemesh area began to suffer particularly,” Blumberg told me as we drove through the countryside where David slew Goliath. “Many of the older women cannot read; they work as maids in houses in Jerusalem, have no pensions, and have little pride in what they do. Cooking they do well.”

Featured in: Kitchen Aid

Ingredients

  • 2green peppers
  • 4large red tomatoes (2 pounds) or one 28-ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes
  • to ½ cup olive oil
  • 4to 5 cloves garlic
  • ½ small hot green pepper, like a jalapeno, seeds removed
  • ½ cauliflower, cut in florets
  • 2cups green fava beans, or carrots, depending on the season
  • 1teaspoon crushed red pepper or to taste
  • 1cup tomato juice or water (about)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1to 2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
  • Juice of 1 lemon (optional)
  • 4-6large eggs
  • 4ounces feta cheese
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro
Yield: 4-6 servings

Preparation

Adapted from Dina Alfasi

  • Step 1

    Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and put the green peppers on a cookie sheet. Bake in the oven, turning once for about 20 minutes, or until charred and soft. When cool enough to handle, peel them, removing the seeds and any white pith from the peppers. Then cut them into large squares.

  • Step 2

    Bring a pot of water to a boil. Plunge the tomatoes into the boiling water for a minute or two, remove with a slotted spoon, and cool in a bowl of ice water. When they are cool enough to handle, peel and dice, keeping most of the liquid but discarding the skin.

  • Step 3

    Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two until fragrant but not burnt. Stir in the hot pepper, the peppers, tomatoes, the cauliflowers, the fava beans or carrots, the crushed hot pepper, and 1 cup tomato juice or water, simmering very slowly, uncovered, for about an hour or until much of the liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to taste and, if needed, add sugar and lemon juice. You can do this a day in advance.

  • Step 4

    Reheat the sauce, adding a little tomato juice or water if it seems too thick. Carefully break 4 to 6 eggs in the sauce, sprinkle the feta cheese around the eggs, cover for about 3 minutes until the yolks are hard, shaking the pan every once in a while (thus the word shakshuka). Remove the cover and serve, sprinkled with the cilantro.

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