Eggplant Shakshuka with Tahini Sauce
Shakshuka is a rustic dish of braised, saucy peppers, onions and tomatoes designed to be scooped up with pita or crusty bread; it’s a common entree in Israeli restaurants in NYC but variations on it are found in various Middle Eastern countries. Poached eggs are a commonly added item, but our vegany version is delightful with morsels of browned eggplant and crowned with a drizzle of silky tahini sauce.
If your tomatoes are not the peak season summer tomatoes, canned diced tomatoes are probably your best bet along with a touch of tomato paste. Shakshuka is typically served in individual skillets, but one big skillet and wide, shallow bowls for serving works just as well. Serve this hearty dish either for an exciting brunch or a simple dinner with good quality bread and a simple green salad.
1/2 pound eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups thinly sliced yellow onions
1 small red chili pepper, minced or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 large red bell pepper, seeds and core removed, sliced into thin 1/4 inch strips
1 large yellow bell pepper, seeds and core removed, sliced into thin 1/4 inch strips
14 ounce can diced tomatoes or 2 cups diced red ripe tomatoes (about 1 pound)
2 teaspoons tomato paste (optional if fresh tomatoes are super ripe and juicy)
1 teaspoon agave nectar
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Big pinch saffron strands or 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
Few twists freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup tahini
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
4-6 tablespoons warm water
1 cup roughly chopped flat leafed parsley
1 cup roughly chopped cilantro
Warmed, thick fluffy pita bread or crusty peasant style bread
1. Sprinkle eggplant cubes with a pinch of kosher salt and set aside as you chop the other vegetables. When you and the eggplant are ready, in a large deep 12 inch skillet over medium heat fry eggplant with 1 tablespoon of olive oil for about 6-8 minutes, turning frequently until cubes are soft and golden brown. Remove from pan onto a plate and set aside.
2. Add remaining oil to the pan and fry the onions for 5 minutes until softened and golden brown. Stir in garlic and chiles, fry for 1 minute and add the sliced peppers. Stir, cover and let steam for 5 minutes, then the remaining ingredients and stir the mixture several times. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until all of the vegetables are very soft and the whole thing looks very juicy and bubbling; if not cook for another 5 minutes until the tomatoes have released all of their juices. Taste and adjust any seasoning with salt or a little lemon juice. Turn off heat, leave covered and let stand for 5 minutes.
3. While the shakshuka is resting prepare the tahini sauce; whisk all of the ingredients together in a mixing bowl to form a smooth sauce. If necessary dribble in a little extra water to thin out the sauce. To serve, scoop a portion of the hot shakshuka into a wide, shallow bowl. Drizzle generously with tahini sauce and garnish with a healthy handful of chopped herbs. Serve with warm pita or crusty bread to scoop up the juicy sauces.
Shakshuka takes easily to all kinds of Middle Eastern additions such as:
Big pinch of saffron added along with the tomatoes
1 tablespoon of minced preserved lemon
1 cup of cooked chickpeas or other white beans folded in along with the tomatoes
Handful of washed baby spinach leaves folded into the sauce during the last 5 minutes of cooking time