With temperatures soaring, the last thing I feel like doing is turning on the oven, or eating a heavy meal. That’s one of the reasons I love shakshuka, a dish of eggs poached on a bed of cooked tomatoes and peppers, seasoned with garlic and spices. Served straight from the frying pan, shakshuka is a staple dish throughout North Africa, and was introduced to Israel by Tunisian Jews. Although it’s a traditional breakfast dish, it also makes a great light dinner during the summer.
The word shakshuka in Hebrew means “all mixed up” and is thought to date back to the Ottoman empire, although Tunisians, Moroccans and Libyans all vie for the credit of creation. Some aficionados add onions, others offer sausage, and still others might put searing hot peppers, olives or cheese into the tomato and red pepper sauce. In Jaffa, there is a “Dr. Shakshuka” who claims to have a secret recipe, one that’s made him famous but which he never reveals.
In recent years, shakshuka has become more of a generic term among the culinary crowd who serve up their eggs on a cornucopia of vegetables, from ratatouille to Hungarian givech to artichokes and spinach, but the one version that I particularly like uses green leaves.
Needless to say, green leaves are among the healthiest foods you can eat, and most nutritionists agree that they are the best foods to improve our health. Rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants in their pigments (the darker the better) and fiber, they are truly a powerhouse of nutrition.
Kale (only available in some Israeli health food stores) is the queen of greens, an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K, and a good source of calcium, folate and potassium. Swiss chard (mangold in Hebrew) is more readily available in supermarkets and is a great source of vitamins A and C, among others. The easily found spinach excels not only in vitamins A and C but also folate, while mustard greens (hardal, found in health food stores and the shuk) add a spicy peppery taste to shakshuka, and contain all the goodness of the other greens. Fresh herbs, like parsley, coriander, tarragon or dill are also high on the antioxidant list. You can even use lettuce, but preferably romaine or other dark lettuces over the less flavorful iceberg. They’re all low in calories.
Herbed Green Leaf Shakshuka
For 4 servings
- 2 cups packed rinsed spinach leaves, stemmed (preferably a grocery package of rinsed spinach)
- 6 Swiss chard leaves, rinsed
- 4 lettuce leaves, coarsely chopped
- Leaves from one bunch of parsley, coriander or dill (half a bunch if using tarragon), coarsely chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 red onion, coarsely chopped
- 4 tablespoons boiling water
- 150 grams crumbled feta cheese, preferably sheep’s milk
- 4-6 eggs, preferably organic
- Salt and coarsely ground pepper
- Rinse the Swiss chard well, and dry. Tear the green parts of the leaves into pieces and chop. Cut the stem widthwise into thin slices.
- Heat the oil and butter in a large frying pan on medium heat. Add the sliced stems and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Lower heat slightly, add the red onion and cook 5 minutes. Add the spinach, Swiss chard, lettuce leaves and herbs, season with salt and pepper and cook an additional 5 minutes. Add a little boiling water to the frying pan if the greens are drying out, and cover and cook another minute or two to allow water to evaporate.
- Remove the cover and break in the eggs, one at a time, into the pot (I like to break them into a cup one at a time and pour them in carefully). Cover and cook until the eggs are ready the way you like them (soft and runny, or more stiff). Sprinkle the feta, on top and around the eggs, cover for two minutes and serve.