Last month Paul-Jean and I spent two weeks in Israel. I hadn’t been back since I was 17 — and that was 17 years ago! It was Paul-Jean’s first time. He’s heard me talk so much about the time I spent in Israel when I was growing up, and with a baby on the way we decided it was time for us to finally make the trip back.
I have a ton of family in Israel from my mother’s side, and my best friend Shir from elementary school lives in Tel Aviv. While the food was definitely what we shared most on social media, the highlight of the trip was (by far) reconnecting with peeps. Hanging out with Shir was like rediscovering my soul sister. We’d been incredibly close in elementary school in Vancouver, then lost touch as we grew older and we both moved away. This past summer Shir visited New York and we reconnected after years of not seeing each other. So of course when Paul-Jean and I were in Israel we spent as much time as possible with Shir and her husband, Amir.
Shir and Amir invited us to their apartment for dinner a couple nights after we arrived, and Shir made an absolute feast. I’d forgotten how meals in Israel tend to be more than just a main dish and a salad. Shir put out a spread. She had two salads, an assortment of breads and cheeses, an almond olive dip she’d learned from Amir’s aunt in Spain, stuffed eggplants, roasted cauliflower with tahini, and of course, the Israeli staple — shakshuka.
Shakshuka is one of my favorite things in the world. When people ask what I’d have for my last meal, I usually say shakshuka. It’s a relatively simple dish of simmered tomato sauce with poached eggs, but each household in Israel has their own variations that can get pretty involved. Shakshuka originated in North Africa, but Israelis have embraced it thoroughly and it’s become a culinary staple in the country.
As I was conveying my love of shakshuka to Shir and describing my personal recipe, she reminded me of this blog, which I’d started when I moved to NY, promptly (well, after 4 posts) let slide and eventually forgot about. “What if we revive the blog together?” she asked. “We could start with our respective shakshuka recipes and go from there”. Genius. So here we are, two years after I started and abandoned this baby, back with a new recipe and a new blog sistah.
An Israeli feast
When we got back to NY, we hosted our monthly family dinner with friends and shared our trip via a typical Israel spread. I made my classic shakshuka, tried out a new hummus recipe, and made a meal that would make my Israeli compatriots proud.
- Hummus from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem
- Moroccan beet salad
- Charred whole eggplant with tahini from Eden Eats
- Rice pilaf (with a nut, spice, and dried blueberry blend we got at a spice stall in Jerusalem. I wish I had asked what was in it)
- Israeli salad (cucumbers, tomatoes, and parsley, diced finely and dressed in lemon juice, olive oil, and salt)
- Plus bread, olives, a variety of cheeses, and bamba — my favorite Israeli snack
Today I’m sharing my shakshuka recipe, and for our next post Shir will share hers. I’m a shakshuka purist, so this recipe is as simple as it gets. You may look at the ingredients and wonder how a few simple things would make it to the top of my last meal list. But together they transcend.
3 large ripe tomatoes, diced
1 large onion, diced
1 tbs olive oil
salt to taste
Pita or crusty bread, to serve
- Heat olive oil in a large skilled over medium heat
- Saute onions until soft
- Add tomatoes and salt, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover
- Simmer tomatoes for at least 10 minutes, until they reach a sauce-like consistency. I often cook them on very low heat for up to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cooking it a little longer brings out the sweetness of the tomatoes, but you don’t want the sauce to be too dry.
- Uncover, make a hole in the sauce with a spoon, and break an egg into the hole. Repeat with all six eggs (make sure to space them out evenly).
- Cover and simmer for another 6-10 minutes, depending on the level of doneness you like your egg yolks. I like mine on the runny side.
- Serve with a side of pita or crusty bread to sop up the eggs and juices