Zucchini, Dill, and Feta Shakshuka

Believed to be translated from the Tunisian word for “shaken up,” shakshuka started out as a breakfast dish for laborers, who would scoop up the saucy eggs, their yolks cooked all the way through, into pitas for a handheld breakfast. You can still find this kind of steam-table fare at some old-school joints and hotel breakfast buffets, but somewhere along the way restaurants and home cooks alike realized they had a winner on their hands: Freshly prepared tomato sauce is a willing canvas for whatever its maker chooses to add to it. Now there’s hardly a restaurant in Israel that doesn’t have it on the menu, or a home cook without a highly personal version. Everyone thinks their version of shakshuka is the undisputed best, and I would argue that each one is; shakshuka is a dish designed to make a cook look good. There’s a forgiving, hard-to-mess-up sauce and a single-skillet presentation that’s festive yet overridingly casual. In our house, we often have a skillet of “shak” sauce cooked and ready to rumble. That way, when friends come over (or Jay wakes up), we rewarm the sauce and crack in the eggs, and breakfast is practically ready. People generally leave the yolks a little runny, but do as you wish; by making shakshuka, you’ve already won breakfast—or, sometimes, lunch or dinner.

 

Serves 4

Active Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

 

 

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced into rounds

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 medium onion, finely diced

1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 teaspoon ground coriander

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to taste

6 medium very ripe fresh tomatoes, finely chopped by hand, or pureed in the bowl of a food processor if you like smoother shakshuka

One 14.5-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 small, fresh, finely diced red jalapeño, plus more to taste and for serving

¼ cup chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish

6 large eggs

1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

Pita or other bread, for serving

Set a rack in the top third of the oven. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Add the zucchini, season in the pan with some salt and black pepper, and cook, not stirring too much, until the zucchini has released its water and is golden and slightly charred around the edges, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet, then add the onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring, until the onion is lightly golden and softened but not too dark, 9 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 more minute. Add the tomato paste, cumin, paprika, coriander, and cayenne and cook, stirring, until the mixture is fragrant and the tomato paste is slightly caramelized, 2 minutes. Add the fresh tomatoes, canned tomatoes, and jalapeño. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the sauce has darkened and thickened slightly, 20 to 25 minutes; season with additional salt and black pepper to taste.

Preheat the broiler during the last 5 minutes of cooking.

Stir in the dill and return the zucchini to the pan, stirring gently. Use a spoon to form 6 wells in the sauce, then crack an egg into each well. Sprinkle the feta around the skillet and cook for 3 minutes. Transfer the shakshuka to the oven and broil until the top of the sauce is slightly caramelized and the whites of the eggs are just opaque but the yolks are still runny, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the oven (use an oven mitt since the handle will be hot), top with fresh chopped dill and more jalapeño, and serve immediately, or cool to room temperature and serve, sandwich-style, stuffed into pitas or piled on top of bread.

Variations:

Cook 4 ounces of sliced merguez sausage along with the onions and peppers (omit the feta cheese if you’re kosher).

In place of the dill, add ½ cup chopped mixed fresh herbs of your choice (basil, parsley, cilantro, etc.).

Drizzle tahini all over the top of the shakshuka.

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