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Shakshouka– Eggs Turned Up Fancy Style for Mother’s Day or Any Day

May 10, 2014

“Good morning mamma here is your breakfast in bed!” I would say as a beaming 10 year old, presenting her breakfast on one of her big silver trays . At that age I learned how to make scrambled eggs in olive oil, thinking that this was a totally normal thing to do in the United States.  I didn’t realize until I got older that basically no one outside of Middle Eastern people scrambled eggs in olive oil. Yeah eggs fried in butter is mighty delicious, but not exactly a heart healthy way to start the morning. Even if you are a butter enthusiast, butter doesn’t offer the same complexity of olive oil to eggs. A good robust olive oil can make eggs taste slightly peppery, bold, and fruity in a rich savory way.  I would also give her a side of labnah (or kefir) cheese dusted with zatar spice, apricot jam, some fresh strawberries, and toasted pita bread for dipping. To this day my mom says wistfully that she always missed my breakfasts in bed since I moved out of the house. To be honest I miss seeing her excited face in the morning, with her plush floral bathrobe and that familiar perfumed mommy smell that so comforted me. Now that I am older and a mommy myself, I still can treat my mother to a special brunch, but in a slightly more extravagant way, with shakshouka.

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Shakshouka is an egg dish originating from Tunis, but hugely popular in Egypt, Libya and Morocco as well. Growing up I remember my mom always liked sauteed garlicky tomatoes next to her eggs, but with shakshouka, you actually cook the eggs on the tomatoes, so you get a nice blend of flavors that you can lavishly sop up with fresh bread. Traditionally this dish contains onions, red bell peppers, and cumin, but my variation is different. I leave out the onions and add garlic (just how my mother likes them). Then I add kalamata olives on top of the eggs, along with a garnish of parsley or green onions. This dish is simple, easy, and even economical–but impressive and indulgent at the same time. If you use good quality olive oil, pastured eggs, tomatoes in season, and fresh baked bread, you will have reached breakfast nirvana–what I envision to be the breakfast of ancient Egyptian gods. Just make sure that you pile on a little bit of everything on each bite of toasted bread before taking that mouth watering bite–low carb be banished from this Egyptian kingdom! And now with summer around the corner this is a great way to use the sweet tomatoes in your garden. My family jokes that I have a black thumb (each new plant in my house becomes a victim no matter how hard I try) but I still manage to grow an impressive batch of tomatoes every year. Tomatoes are indestructible, sort of like the Aaaaaaanold Schwartzenegger of the fruit and veggie world.  To all of you mother’s out there, Happy Mother’s Day, I hope your loved ones treat you to an unforgettable day that will give you treasured memories for days to come! Hope you enjoy my recipe tomorrow, or any day of the week, and let me know what you think in the comments. 😉

 

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