Shakshouka – A Mixture

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If there’s anything that I’ve gathered from all of my food thoughts, conversations, and experiments this semester, it’s that it’s important to always maintain a mixture of things. “Everything in moderation,” is another way to say it. The more I learn about the food system and the more I participate in it, the more I have become hyperaware of my food choices. In some ways this is very cool–I think about where my food comes from, what’s in it, who prepared it, how it will nourish my body, and even how it fits into my own cultural perceptions and preferences. On the other hand, it’s kind of stressful. All of a sudden I’m concerned not just about what is in my food, but where each individual ingredient came from, where it was processed, and even where it was grown. This thought process gets complicated, and fast. Many foods have ingredients that have changed hands countless times, but the ingredient list will only show the product that came a step before the production of that specific process. When I bought cereal, I was no longer just interested in the ingredients and basic nutritional info (though this was still a factor–Spring Break is the start of swimsuit season). I now look at a cereal label and want to know where the sugar came from, where the factory is, what kind of sugar cane was used, where the sugar cane was grown, and how it was transported. In many ways, it seems growing alternative food movements have been designed to eliminate all of these potential sources of corruption along the food supply chain. If you purchase ‘fair trade’, you can assume the workers were well paid. If you buy organic, you can rest assured that your food has no strange carcinogens. When you go local, your produce is in season and has a smaller footprint. The point of this is that it’s overwhelming–there exist very few food products in the world that allow you to satisfy all of these criteria. For me to have a healthy, happy diet, it means that I will have a mix of lots of different foods with varying pros and cons.

It’s fitting then that, in this mindset, I chose to make a new favorite dish of mine–Shakshouka, which is slang for “a mixture” in Arabic. I love shakshouka because it’s delicious, vegetarian, and very easy to make. It’s extremely easy to get creative with, as you can include pretty much any vegetables that would go well with tomatoes and eggs. Here’s the mixture we made:

Shakshouka

Serves 4

1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes

4-6 eggs

1 red onion, diced

1 C fresh spinach

a handful of cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 red bell pepper, sliced

1-2 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

dash of chili powder

salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375º. Heat olive oil in a skillet, large and deep enough to hold all ingredients at once, and able to withstand baking (cast iron works well). Add onions, pepper and mushrooms, and sauté until soft (about 2 minutes). Stir in tomatoes and spices, and simmer over medium heat until mixture begins to thicken. Stir in spinach, then create small divets in the mixture and crack eggs into them. Continue to cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, then transfer entire pan to oven. Bake for 8-`10 minutes, until eggs are entirely cooked through. Serve warm, with toast or over quinoa.

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