Nothing As Planned | Jammy Eggs + Stewed Tomatoes on Toast
Maybe it’s apparent to you, but things on this blogette happen haphazardly and spontaneously. As in, there are no schedules of future recipes. There are no elaborate stylings that take half a day and $200 dollars worth of props (though I did buy a couple new bowls with your viewing pleasure in mind but I also NEEDED them so don’t roll your eyes at me, madam). It’s just me, walking around the apartment with dinner in hand, impatiently looking for some half decent natural light so I can take a photo with my iPhone 6. Photography and starvation do not pair well and I mostly, nay always, just want to get to the eating part.
But the days are short right now and I am not making much of an effort to prepare my dinner at times when the light is at its best. No, sir, these photo sessions will happen on my schedule. I have a life, too, you know.
A couple weekends ago a friend and I were in St. Louis to visit Sarah B and since she lets me cook for her and I happen to like cooking for her, I made us a meal of creamy, dreamy roasted red pepper fettuccine that looked as lovely as it sounds. A sunset-hued sauce flecked with basil and pepper and smothered in a salty blanket of Parmesan. I decided it would be great to share the recipe with you and tried to take a few pics while insisting (demanding) that everyone go ahead and eat without me. The dinner was a hit. The photos have been deleted. C’est la vie.
Food blogs these days are real works of art. Have you seen them? Lets look: The First Mess, Local Milk, Seven Spoons. It’s intimidating and, to be quite frank, it looks exhausting. I imagine food bloggers everywhere going hangry, eating cold meals while trying to figure out their SEO. I once watched a woman give a tutorial on how she styles her food photography. She was doing something called a “flat lay” and the video was two hours and ten minutes of her blessedly tweaking the placement of some sage and a flower stem and wrinkling her artisan cotton linens just so and I found it to be a good time to make myself some spaghetti and indulge a nap.
Sunday was a gracious kind of day, gray and quiet, the kind that begs you to slow way, way down. A perfect day to make something for the blogette! So I cooked… sweet smelling roasted root veggies, silky sautéed spinach, a brown butter + chai spiced tea cake that I’ll share with you once it’s perfect (was a bit too eggy), and then the pièce de résistance… a shakshuka.
Tantalizing photos of this dish are all over the internets and I swoon. I want to eat it, to photograph it, to be it. I read a few recipes, cobbled together a version that would fit with my low-FODMAP diet, and forged ahead. Making the sauce was easy enough and provided plenty of leftovers for a single gal. Traditionally, Shakshuka is made in a large pan (it seems others favor an iron skillet, but the acidity of tomatoes is brutal on cast iron so don’t be like those people, deal?) and then eggs are carefully cracked open and placed into little divots in the sauce where they are gently simmered to poached perfection.
The quantity of this dish implies that it is meant to be shared, but feeding only myself, I needed to improvise. I scooped some sauce into a bowl traditionally used for French onion soup (you know the ones… they have that little handle and were born in the 70’s), cracked an egg into it, sprinkled some feta on top, and put it in the oven. 15 minutes later I had neither a perfectly poached egg nor a photogenic meal. But the flavors were mellow and soft and I ate the whole thing with two pieces of gluten-free toast… silky and crunchy, with salty hits of feta, and a satisfying crumble of cooked egg yolk.
Still, I knew I could make it better. Oh, the gumption!
The next night the sauce got warmed through, the toast went in the oven, and two eggs were cracked into hot oil. The vision: two fried eggs, crispy around the edges but with runny yolks. The runny yolk was key. But a master at eggs I apparently am not and while the edges were indeed crispy, the yolks were mostly set. It all got piled into a bowl and I ate it wholeheartedly, planning my next move. I work hard for you!
Round 3. Back at the stove. This time with a soft boiled egg. I felt like I couldn’t fail and I felt right. A perfectly cooked egg (well, perfect by my standards), with a firm egg white and a runny yolk. I wanted to break that yoke open and create a golden moat around the stewed tomatoes and soak it all up with the buttered toast. Which is exactly what I did, right after taking some photos under the fading daylight. And so, I give to you, my version of Shakshuka (more appropriately named as Jammy Eggs + Stewed Tomatoes on Toast).
Jammy Eggs + Stewed Tomatoes on Toast
I realize I’m a little fixated on the whole runny yoke thing. What can I say? I want what I want. But, having had this meal with a hard yoke and a semi-hard yoke (please, no jokes), I can say that this dish will comfort you. The combination of tart tomatoes with earthy eggs is a happy union that seems like it shouldn’t work but it does. It’s a partnership that disproves the naysayers, I say.
And maybe this needn’t be said, but have this for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner. Have it with a hot cup of coffee or an icy cold beer or a tall glass of almond chocolate milk. What it lacks in looks it makes up for in flavor. Trust.
(makes about 3 cups)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole
1 red pepper, sliced into thin strips
1 fennel bulb, sliced into thin strips
1/2 cup green onions, green parts only, diced
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
pinch red pepper flakes
1 28oz can of diced tomatoes with juices (or a can of whole tomatoes, smashed up with your hands)
1/2 - 1 cup vegetable stock
salt + pepper to taste
In a medium pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook 5 minutes. Take care not to burn the cloves, turning heat down if needed. Discard cloves.
Add red pepper, fennel, green onion, and a couple pinches of salt and saute over medium heat till softened, about 10 minutes. Add paprika, cumin, and red pepper flakes, stir, and cook another minute.
Add tomatoes and stock. How much stock you use will depend on how thick the sauce already is. I only needed half a cup, but you might need more. You want the sauce to be fairly thick.
Cover with a lid and simmer for at least 15 minutes (longer if you have the time). If you need to cook out some of the liquid, leave the lid ajar so the steam can escape.
Season with salt + pepper, to taste.
1-2 eggs per person
Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add a few large pinches of salt, carefully lower eggs into water, and keep water at a gentle boil. Cook for 5 minutes, remove eggs from water, and run under cold water for a minute. (You could also place eggs in an ice bath for 2 minutes, but I’m lazy and don’t mind burning my fingers. Choose your own adventure here.) Carefully peel eggs. If you get one of those stubborn eggs that don’t peel cleanly, I am so sorry, it happens to the best of us.
1-2 slices (per person) of your favorite bread, toasted. I used gluten-free, but anything goes here. I think naan would be delicious.
Butter toast and top with stewed tomatoes, eggs, and feta. A few cracks of fresh, black pepper and a pinch or two of coarse salt won’t hurt either. And then smash that soft-boiled egg open and take pride in your perfectly runny yolk moat.