One of my favorite breakfast dishes to make on a lazy Sunday is huevos rancheros, fried eggs smothered in salsa and served on corn tortillas so the yolk gets all mixed in with the salsa and tortillas.
There are all sorts of ways to make it, including frying the tortillas in oil, then the eggs, and placing the eggs on the tortillas, then the salsa. I like to simmer and baste the eggs in the salsa in a big cast iron skillet. I top it all with cheese and a bit of sour cream and cilantro, then scoop out the whole mess (keeping the yolks intact) and place two eggs on a few warmed up tortillas. So good.
Lately, however, I’ve been doing much the same thing in a Middle Eastern dish (specifically Tunisian in origin, but also popular in Morocco, Egypt and Israel to name a few), Shakshouka. It’s a dish now spreading in popularity in the brunching crowd, although it’s also great for dinner.
The basic recipe is similar to my huevos rancheros but with different spices and ingredient variations. Start with tomatoes, eggs, salt, pepper and cumin, and go from there, adding artichokes, salty cheese, eggplant and more. A similar Turkish dish is menemen, with eggs, tomato, a lot of green and red peppers and spices like oregano, the eggs sometimes scrambled. I like a variation I’ve found that uses a thick, creamy yogurt. Be sure to have some pita or challah bread on hand to scoop up all the mixed up egg, veggies and sauce. Italian cuisine also has a poached egg dish, simply marinara sauce, or Uova al Purgatorio (eggs in purgatory), very easy to make. Just be sure to have some crusty bread for dipping. Try these recipes and be sure to wing it a bit with the vegetables, spices and cheeses.
I like to add black olives and feta cheese to my version.
3 T. olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 large red pepper stems and seeds removed, thinly sliced
1 fresh small hot chili stems and seeds removed, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1-1/2 T. smoked Spanish paprika
2 t. ground cumin
1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Handful minced parsley
Sliced kalamata olives and feta cheese or slices of artichoke hearts (optional)
Pita or challah bread
Heat olive oil in a deep skillet over high heat. Add onion, red pepper and chili pepper, and make an even layer. Cook until vegetables are browned and starting to char. Stir and cook until vegetables are softened and charred here and there. Add garlic and cook until softened, about a minute. Add paprika and cumin and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds more. Add tomatoes and stir. Reduce heat to a simmer for 10 minutes, then season with salt and pepper and stir in half of the parsley.
Make a well near the edge of the pan with a spoon and break an egg directly into it, then spoon a little sauce over edges of egg white to partially submerge it, leaving yolk exposed. Repeat with remaining 5 eggs, working around the edge of the pan. Season eggs with salt, cover, reduce heat to lowest setting, and cook until egg whites are barely set and yolks are still runny, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Sprinkle with remaining parsley, along with any toppings you like and serve with the bread.
Menemen with yogurt
2 T. olive oil
2 onions, sliced
1 red or green pepper, de-seeded and sliced
1-2 red chillies, de-seeded and sliced
1 15-oz. can chopped tomatoes
1-2 t. superfine sugar
1 small bunch parsley, coarsely chopped
6 T. Greek or Icelandic yogurt (thick and creamy)
1 garlic clove, crushed
Heat the oil in a heavy skillet. Stir in the onions, pepper and chilies, and cook until they begin to soften. Add the tomatoes and sugar. Mix well. Cook until the liquid has reduced by about half. Season with salt and pepper.
Create 4 pockets in the tomato mixture and crack the eggs into them. Cover the pan and cook the eggs over a low heat until just set or to your desired doneness.
Beat the yogurt with the garlic and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the menemen with parsley and serve from the frying pan with a tablespoon of the garlic-yogurt on each egg.
Uova al Purgatorio
Adapted from NYT, Martha Rose Shulman
Add cayenne to make this spicy if you like. I use a crusty bread grilled with olive oil and garlic for dipping and top it with plenty of Parmesan and fresh basil and oregano
For one serving
1/2 c. marinara sauce
Fresh basil and/or oregano, chopped
Cayenne pepper (optional)
1 or 2 eggs
Freshly grated Parmesan
Bread of choice
Bring the marinara sauce to a simmer in a small saucepan, then lower the heat. Add the cayenne and fresh herbs.
Break the eggs into a cup, then slide them carefully into the tomato sauce. Cover pan and simmer over low heat for 3 to 4 minutes, until the tops of the whites are set, but the yellow yolk shows through, making sure the yolk is still runny.
Turn off the heat and season the eggs with salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle on the Parmesan and top with snippets of fresh herbs.
— Rachel Forrest is a former restaurant owner who lives in Exeter (and Austin, Texas). She can be reached by email at�email@example.com. Read more of her�Dining Out reviews online.