Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Shakshuka Pita Sandwiches

Food memories are the best.

And people, do I have a food memory for you!

One of the best trips I ever took was to Israel on birthright (shout out to Bus 120 woohoo!) It taught me so much about Israeli culture and the Jewish religion. And who cannot say culture without food? I know absolutely no one.

Basically, the gist of birthright meals is you get to eat schwarma and falafel EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. This, at first, seems like an amazing opportunity to eat all the meat and all of the pita and all of the veg. That is, until, it’s your fifth day in a row and you basically feel like you ARE that hunk of meat on a spit, roasting slowly over an open flame which is the Israeli desert heat.

Doesn’t Israel sound a lot like fun? Don't worry I’m only kidding… ok only partially.

But Israel really did get me hooked on all of the flavors of the middle eat. The baklava, the vegetables, even the pudding for breakfast (every chocolate lover’s dream) helped to expand my idea of what food is.

And so, here is a delicious product of that. Shakshuka is traditionally comprised of eggs baked in tomato sauce. However, since we are busy people doing busy things here in New York, it seems right to wrap it all up in a pita. While the “to go” concept of this did not work out so well (namely the sandwich fell apart in the first 10 seconds) it was nevertheless delicious and reminiscent of that trip.

Shakshuka Egg Sandwiches

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For the sauce:
  • Olive oil, for cooking
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 yellow peppers, hulled, seeded, and thinly sliced
  • 1 jalepeno, hulled, seeded, and thinly sliced
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp of paprika
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 14-ounce can of crushed tomatoes

For the sandwiches*
  • 1-2 eggs
  • 2 tsp  feta cheese
  • ½ tsp za’atar
  • 1 tsp chopped parsley
  • 1 large or 2 small mini pitas

*Note on the sandwiches: Smitten Kitchen (bless her soul) makes all of these at one time. For the college student I am, I choose to make the sauce ahead of time then reheat it in portions in a small skillet to make individual sandwiches. Therefore, this recipe will reflect the sauce for the entire recipe, but the creation of the individual sandwich. If you want to make the recipe for a crowd, follow the suggestions used on Smitten Kitchen.

Heat a large skillet with a drizzle of olive oil in it on medium heat. Once hot, add the yellow onion and sauté for five to six minutes, until the onion begins to soften. Add the garlic, and cook until slightly brown, about two minutes. Add all of the peppers, cumin, and paprika and sauté until the peppers have soften, around five minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the can of crushed tomatoes and about half a can of water, stir, and bring it to a simmer. Turn the heat to medium low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste.

When you want to make a sandwich, warm your pitas. Add a couple ladlefuls of sauce into a small skillet, so that the sauce covers the bottom of the pan and there is a fair but not excessive number of peppers. Make an indentation (or two) in the sauce and crack an egg in each. Cover with a lid and let the egg cook until the desired firmness is reached. After 3-4 minutes, they should have set whites with runny yokes. After 5-6 minutes, the yokes should be mostly set. Sprinkle with za’atar, feta cheese, and parsley, saving some of the feta and parsley if using as garnish. Cut the top off of the pita, and then spoon the sauce and egg into the pita. Garnish with reserved feta and parsley and eat.

Is this sandwich why they call it "The Holy Land?"

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