The other day, scanning food blogs while eating a quick dinner of scrambled eggs with veggies, I bookmarked a recipe for ratatouille with baked eggs. The author called “a great date recipe,” and I had to laugh at one of the commenter’s response to his claim: “pretty sure I’d be onto the fact that my date was cheap/broke if he served me eggs for dinner!”
While I can think of dozens of dinners more romantic than ratatouille with eggs, I’m pretty sure that this 20something cheap/broke vegetarian foodie would be onto the fact that my date knew a thing or two about quick, delicious, inexpensive suppers. While some would call my eggs-for-dinner habit cheap or lazy, I’ll side with Julia Child on this one: she called her rolled omelet recipe “dinner in half a minute.” Maybe ten years and a regular paycheck down the road, I’ll see things from that snarky commenter’s perspective. But it’s more likely that I will have perfected Julia’s omelet technique by then and I’ll be showing it off to anyone who’ll deign to have such a peasant’s meal.
This shakshuka, another gem of a recipe from Plenty (see green couscous and baba ghanoush posts), is pretty nearly my perfect food. It’s comforting but light , it’s tomatoey, and it has a kick. I served it- without shame of being judged as cheap- at a potluck dinner this week, and my only regret was that I had to share it. It’s great for feeding a crowd but could easily be scaled down. Ottolenghi’s recipe doesn’t call for hot peppers, but I added a poblano to intensify the smoky flavor.
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 red and one yellow pepper, sliced
1 poblano pepper, seeds removed, diced
1 T sugar
2 T fresh thyme leaves, removed from stems
1/4 c chopped parsly
2 T chopped cilantro, plus extra for garnish
6 medium-sized ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tsp paprika
Salt and black pepper
Start by prepping all of the vegetables. This isn’t absolutely necessary, but it will make the process run much more smoothly.
In a large pan (I used my soup pot), dry roast the cumin seeds on high heat for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Add the oil and onion and saute until the onions are soft and have a little color. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute. Add peppers, sugar, herbs, and paprika and continue cooking on high heat for 5-10 minutes, until everything is fairly soft.
Add the tomatoes (with any juice that escaped while you chopped them) and some salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 15 minutes. The mix should have the consistency of a pasta sauce. Add water if it seems too thick and simmer longer if it seems too thin. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
Divide the sauce between 2 medium sized frying pans. Make 4 gaps in the mixture in each pan with the back of a spoon and carefully break an egg into each gap. Sprinkle with salt and cover the pans with lids. Cook on a gentle heat for 5-10 minutes until the eggs are done to your liking. The white should be just set and the yolk runny. You can baste the egg whites with the tomato liquid while they cook, but don’t disturb the yolk. Sprinkle with cilantro and feta cheese and serve with crusty bread or pita.