23 August 2011

Shakshuka and Roti

During our last night in Connecticut I craved hot comfort food. Meanwhile, Doug demanded I cook something that used up all his garden tomatoes. After some thought, I remembered that when George and I were staying in Queens, NY, we ate at an amazing little Israeli food haven called Mimi's Hummus. There I enjoyed my first shakshuka—a tomato-and-egg dish of North African, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern origins—with a basket of fresh-cooked pita. The meal warmed and comforted me so deeply that I felt it would serve perfectly to combat the latest family cold. However, the last time I attempted a pita recipe, it somehow morphed into matzah! So…to accompany my shakshuka I tried a different kind of quick-cooking bread, Indian roti. I altered a shakshuka recipe I found at Smitten Kitchen while Julia and I mostly adhered to one version of a roti recipe in Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East Vegetarian Cooking.

Doug's eating gluten-free again, so he enjoyed the shakshuka over a mixture of wild and basmati rice and asked for seconds…and thirds. He and George kvetched that the shakshuka was too spicy (they are sensitive), but I had specifically altered the recipe to be as mild as possible, and anyway they both ate a lot of it so it couldn't have been too painful.

Julia exclaimed at how quickly the roti came together. If you make the roti and an entree that only takes about a half-hour, you should have everything ready in a little over an hour. Make sure ahead of time that you have access to a wide, deep pan for the shakshuka, and for the roti you will need a broiler and also a smaller frypan that you can stick in the oven. The roti came out in pretty funny shapes, but we shrugged, called it "rustic," and presented it with the confidence that only a dimly-lit room can provide.

Serves 4-6 hungry people


a lot of fruity olive oil (don't waste your expensive extra-virgin on this)
3 cubanelle peppers, seeded and sliced into short thin strips*
1 1/2 to 2 large yellow onions, chopped into little pieces
1 head of garlic, peeled, smashed, and chopped into little pieces
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon sweet paprika
2 lbs. or a little more of fresh tomatoes
kosher or sea salt to taste
6 eggs, or as many as you can cook side-by-side in the pan
optional: chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish

*or another large, mild frying pepper, like poblano

  1. Blanch tomatoes 30 seconds to a minute in boiling water. Peel and discard peel. Cut into wedges.
  2. With your hands, crush and break down the tomatoes. It's okay if a lot of juice goes into the bowl. It's all going into the pan.
  3. Cover the surface of the frypan with a good layer of oil. When it shimmers, add the onion and peppers. Sauté on medium heat until the onion softens and turns golden brown, about 7 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic, cumin, and paprika. Stir and cook 1 minute.
  5. Add the tomatoes and their juice, plus 1/2 Cup water to the fry pan. Simmer and stir for 15 minutes until the sauce has reduced and thickened a little. Add the salt to taste.
  6. Break the six eggs directly into the tomato sauce, one egg at a time, so that they distribute evenly across the surface.
  7. Cover the fry pan, reduce heat a little, and let cook for about 10 minutes until white and yolk have thoroughly poached in the tangy liquid.
  8. Sprinkle on the parsley, if desired.
  9. Spoon hot directly from the fry pan over hot rice or with fresh roti or pita.


1 Cup whole wheat flour
1 Cup cake-flour (not self-rising)

  1. Mix flours with less than 1 Cup of lukewarm water until it forms a dough. Knead for 7 minutes, then cover with a damp cloth and allow to sit for a half hour or more.
  2. Tear the dough into 12 equal-sized balls. For the next several steps, keep all the dough covered with the damp cloth unless you are working with it.
  3. Flour a wooden board or wax paper. Flour your hands and a rolling pin. Pat each ball into a flattened round. Then roll the dough out into a circle until it's quite thin and about 5 1/2 inches in diameter. Set aside and cover with a damp cloth. Repeat with remaining 11 balls of dough, but don't stack all 12 on top of each other or they will start sticking together.
  4. Heat up the broiler. Meanwhile, heat up a heavy fry pan on medium heat.
  5. Slap one of the rotis on the fry pan. After 1 minute, soft bubbles should have formed. Turn it over. After 30 seconds, stick the whole pan under the broiler. The roti should puff up in a matter of seconds. Remove from the pan and store the roti in a clean cloth-lined dish.
  6. Repeat with remaining 11 rotis. Serve at once with hot saucy food.

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