Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Back from Israel and ready for Shakshuka
That was the backdrop, the meme, but not my moment-to-moment experience, which mixed immediacy and miracles, wariness and wonder.
Each of the nine days of this visit had its highlights and surprises. I hope to write more about them later, but first, the mundane: Shakshuka.
I first saw it at breakfast, which in Israel is the granddaddy of meals, and our hotels offered lavish buffets. Tables of smoked fish, cheeses, fresh fruits and vegetables; baskets of baked goods, made-to-order lattes and espresso, chefs creating omelettes. Rows of chafing dishes not only offering porridge and quiches and pancakes but on this trip, always Shakshuka.
Saute onion, garlic, fresh tomatoes and their juice with herbs, a little sugar, sometimes peppers. Let it simmer down into a dense tomato melange in the frying pan. Then, crack whole eggs into it, cover and cook until the eggs set, nestled into the sauce. Easy and ubiquitous. But I wasn't ready for its popularity.
Our family came from the graveside ceremony marking a year since my father-in-law's passing. We gathered afterwards in the private room of a quaint restaurant. The morning had been remarkable, walking in pelting rain at the cemetery to the newly-placed monument, a beautiful orange-red marbled stone that we could could not accept covered our beloved Dad and Zayde. As soon as we arrived, the deluge, which was so strong it flooded the streets and caused small rivers gushing down the ravines, let up. Not a drop fell as we said traditional prayers, offered recollections, read psalms. When we were finished, and placed small rocks on the newly-carved slab, we turned to go--and the heavens opened again, resuming their tears and torrents.
At the restaurant, we filled our stomachs and fed our conversations on Shakshuka. There's something earthy and elemental about this simple combination.
Every breakfast in Israel included Shakshuka. Then, when I came home, a supplement to our newspaper happened to have a feature on it. I opened a cookbook that I've had on my shelf for a few years, The Foods of Israel Today, by Joan Nathan, and found this version. A sensual souvenir of this particular visit to Israel; an easy way to recapture intense feelings of many types.
by Joan Nathan
Yield: 6 servings
2 pounds fresh tomatoes, unpeeled and cut in quarters, or one 28-ounce can tomatoes
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 teaspoons tomato paste