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Greet the new year with shakshuka, eggs poached in tomatoes

Shakshuka isn’t just fun to say. This tomato-based dish with eggs poached in the sauce is delicious, easy to make and doesn’t take too long. It’s a fine dish when the calendar turns to 2014.

ILEANA MORALES | Special to the Times

Shakshuka isn’t just fun to say. This tomato-based dish with eggs poached in the sauce is delicious, easy to make and doesn’t take too long. It’s a fine dish when the calendar turns to 2014.

Twelve grapes at midnight. Black-eyed peas. Flutes of Champagne, clinking and bubbling. The spread for New Year's Eve is one we all know. We want drinks that sparkle and food that will bring us luck in the new year. But what about the morning after? We should be thoughtful about the first meal of the new year, too.

Nothing too ambitious. Or sweet. I don't mean that in a resolution-sort-of way but by this point you don't really want another cookie. You want a meal. Something savory. And on Jan. 1? Something that doesn't ask too much of us, please. It's the first day of the year, we watched the ball drop not too many hours earlier, and I think I still have glitter and confetti in my hair.

The answer is shakshuka. This quick stew of tomatoes with slivers of onion and bell pepper has North African origins, though almost all the ingredients will be familiar and are probably already in your kitchen. (There are many variations to this recipe. Tweak to your liking.) Once the spicy sauce is simmering, eggs are dropped into indentations made in the tomatoes and they poach in the juices. Eggs bring this dish into breakfast territory, but I'd eat shakshuka any time of day.

Harissa, the hot sauce of North Africa, is a paste made of hot peppers, oil and spices. This condiment has as many variations as shakshuka itself, and I use 2 tablespoons in my version. You can halve that amount if you don't want it too spicy. If you can't find harissa at the store, you'll find many recipes online for making your own or paprika can stand in as a substitute.

Each serving can be cooked individually in small skillets, but I find it easier to prepare the shakshuka in one large skillet and transfer each serving to a bowl or ramekin when it's done. The sauce can be made a day ahead and gently reheated before poaching the eggs. Either way, you can't really mess this up. Just keep the egg yolk runny and serve with plenty of crusty bread.

I don't know if shakshuka will bring you luck in the new year, but it will certainly bring satisfaction. It's a dish to keep in rotation all year.

Ileana Morales is a writer who cooks in a small apartment kitchen in Tampa with boyfriend Danny Valentine, an education reporter for the Tampa Bay Times. For more of their kitchen adventures, visit Ileana's blog, alittlesaffron.com. She can be reached at alittlesaffron@gmail.com.

>>Moderate

Shakshuka

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 large onion, sliced

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

2 bell peppers (yellow, orange or red), sliced into long, thin strips

2 bay leaves

Few sprigs thyme

2 tablespoons harissa (or 1 tablespoon smoked paprika)

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

Salt

Pepper

1/2 cup parsley, chopped, divided use

1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (leave most of the cheese in large chunks)

4 to 6 eggs

Crusty bread, for serving

Bring a large skillet to medium-high heat, add oil, and saute onions, stirring frequently until soft, about 2 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook 1 to 2 minutes longer.

Turn the heat down to medium and stir in the sliced bell pepper, bay leaves, thyme, harissa, tomato paste and cumin. Cook for a few minutes until the bell pepper softens.

Add diced tomatoes (with the juices from the can). Add a big pinch each of salt and pepper along with half of the parsley. Bring to a simmer; turn down the heat to medium-low and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. At this point, it should look somewhat like tomato sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Drop the crumbled feta into the mixture.

Use a large spoon to create wells in the sauce for the eggs. Crack the eggs into the wells. Cover the skillet and let the eggs cook until just set (you want a runny egg) and warmed through, about 8 minutes.

Take the skillet off the heat and sprinkle with the rest of the chopped parsley. Let sit for a few minutes before transferring each serving to a shallow bowl or ramekin. Serve with bread.

Serves 4 to 5.

Source: Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi

Greet the new year with shakshuka, eggs poached in tomatoes 12/27/13 [Last modified: Friday, December 27, 2013 6:00pm]

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