Eggs Poached in Spicy Tomato Sauce (Shakshuka) and a Break Up Story

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Siri, play “Little Lies by Fleetwood Mac”

There is nothing I enjoy more than being in my own space, cooking a meal full of love. I feel my most attractive with a towel over my shoulder, hair likely slightly askew and a glass of wine in hand, cooking you the next amazing meal you’re going to eat. In my imagination I look like some sort of nonchalant-Sophia Loren-chef, but I probably look more like I needed another 10 minutes before you stopped by. But fuck domesticity, food is raw and so am I.  

Having a friend or significant other in my kitchen is something I consider sacred. Over the last few years, I have practiced a consistent ritual for a budding romance inviting them over for dinner. It feels like a power move and in a roundabout way demonstrates if the relationship is a fit. For example, if someone won’t eat colors that aren’t brown or considers a vegetarian meal incomplete not only do we have a difference of opinion but a difference in core philosophy. If they indulge, become excited, and vibe off the creative energy I give off when I’m cooking then you can bet I’m going to invite them over again. 

On maybe our third date with my my last love interest feeling quite confident I said, “When I finally invite you to dinner (already imaging the dish I would make), you’re gonna want to lock it down.” We laughed, I felt embarrassed the next day at my haughtiness. But lock it down they did and the first dish I made for them was this simple version of shashuka written below.

Unfortunately the relationship didn’t workout and right now I’m in that the dark night of the soul post break up where I'm very into Fleetwood Mac. There are a lot of what if’s - what if I never want to make shakshuka again (I haven’t)? What if no one will be as supportive of my cooking as he was? What if I’m completely uninspired? And the ever present dark cloud - what if I’m not able to ever be loved wholly? I stopped cooking for awhile. Something that felt deeply out of character for me. It concerned me more than the cigarettes I picked back up or that sometimes my most comforting thought was that I just had to white knuckle through my wellspring of negative emotions and make it to bed.

The pain I felt then has dulled and I know at some point will fade entirely. I’ve picked cooking back up and have turned my attention to sharing meals with friends, something I overlooked when paired. It has been a reawakening and the amount of support I have received has made me feel luckier than ever despite the pain. 

Recently my ex reached back out to reconnect and maybe the third message he sent was “Have you made shakshuka recently… I miss that too :)” When I saw that text notification pop up on my phone I wanted to be angrier and send back a sneering reply, but instead something in me softened. I realized even more so than I was grieving a relationship that wasn’t working for the two people involved, I was grieving over the tender and vulnerable moments we had like sharing our first meals together. I wait in wonder when moments like those will again exist in my life. 

So for now, I will be making shakshuka again and again until it becomes something new. Sharing it with friends, potentially new lovers, and the recipe with you. You are integral in helping me broaden the implications this recipe holds, your energy and the memories you will create making it for those you love helps me heal. These new stories and memories don’t change the importance this modest dish held in my last relationship but instead it will change, grow, and become new and even deeper. That’s beautiful. And that’s life I guess. In the end I know there will always be more new people to cook for and there will always be more shakshuka.

Image credits: Elvira Madigan, Bo Widerberg, (1967)

RECIPE

Shakshuka is a traditional North African dish of eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce with herbs and served with crusty bread.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp butter

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 onion diced

  • 1 zucchini, diced

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 jalapeno diced, deseeded if you’re not into spice

  • 1, 28 ounce can tomatoes (I prefer San Marzano, broken up with a spoon while cooking)

  • 1 tbsp honey

  • 1 tbsp sriracha (plus more to taste)

  • 1 bay leaf

  • Salt and pepper

  • 4-6 eggs

  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

  • Sliced crusty bread, for serving

Directions:

  1. Over medium heat butter and olive oil in large high sided skillet.

  2. Add onion and zucchini, cook until onions are translucent and zucchini is tender. Add garlic and jalapeno, cook for 1 minute.

  3. Add tomatoes, honey, sriracha, and bay leaf. Turn heat up to high and bring to a boil. Then simmer for 20 minutes on medium-low until sauce has thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

  4. Make four indents in the sauce, crack 1 egg into each indentation. Place cover on skillet and steam eggs until whites are cooked through but the yolk is still runny, checking periodically. This can take up to 10 minutes.

  5. If making individual portions, divide the sauce between 4 small ovenproof dishes. When ready to cook, make an indent in the sauce to crack an egg into. Season eggs with salt and pepper. Broil until eggs until whites are cooked through but the yolk is still runny. Time depends on the strength of your broiler, check often.

  6. Garnish with a generous sprinkling of chopped fresh mint and serve with crusty bread.