Aunt Suzy says . . . 

This dish (also called Shakshuka) is served throughout the Middle East and North Africa. There are many theories of where it originated, but it is common in Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Israel, where it is thought to have been introduced by Tunisian Jews. Wikipedia notes that it rivals hummus and falafel for the “national dish” of Israel.  As you can imagine there are many variations on a theme with a dish like this.  The common ingredients are peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes and spices plus the eggs.  Many recipes do not include the sausage and some, like this, emphasize tomato sauce over peppers.  I’ve made it with and without the sausage, depending on my mood and ingredients on hand.  I make Chakchouka mostly for dinner, but I know it is often served for breakfast and would make for a great brunch.

Margaux says…

We made this for the first time last night…or should I say, Jason made it (so he should probably be writing this!), and it was delicious!  We made it without sausage, and threw in a couple of zucchinis instead.  We both agreed that it would have been even better with sausage, but it was still good vegetarian.  We also both wanted more eggs with it, so I think next time we’ll do 6 eggs instead of just 4.  We love having eggs for dinner, and will definitely be making this again.  And the harissa really added great flavor!

Serves 4

The Pepper Stew

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 each, red and green bell pepper, sliced

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

Merguez sausages, sliced in about 3/4-inch pieces (optional)

1 tablespoon Harissa

6 tomatoes, peeled & quartered OR

1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained

2 tablespoons fresh mint or parsley

Crumbled feta cheese (optional)

Heat oil in large skillet.  Add onions and bell peppers and cook, uncovered, over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 5 minutes. Move the vegetable mixture to one side and add the sausages and cook for a few minutes. Add the Harissa and stir to blend. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cook all gently for another 10 minutes or so until everything is soft.  Add the mint or parsley, or you can wait and sprinkle this on after placing on the plates.

Finishing with the Eggs

4 eggs

Make 4 indentations in the vegetable mixture and break an egg into each.  Cover the pan and cook gently for 5-7 minutes until eggs are set.  (I made an individual portion for myself since Randy was eating his stew without an egg – also delicious!)

Use a large spatula to scoop out a portion of the vegetables with an egg.  It should look like a nest on the plate. Sprinkle with the mint if you haven’t done this before and crumble the feta on top, if desired. Serve immediately with crusty french bread or toasted pita and a salad.

Cook’s Notes (Aunt Suzy): If you do not have Harissa, but would like a little heat, you could use hot sauce or add a minced jalapeno or serrano pepper with the garlic.  I would also add a little cumin if I did not use Harissa.  I am lucky to live near Clancy’s Meats which makes its own Merguez lamb sausage.  You can also order from Amazon by clicking on the link in the ingredient list. I think Andouille sausage or Spanish Chorizo might be tasty.  Or as I mentioned in the intro, this is very delicious without sausage at all.

Aunt Suzy says . . .

The holidays have been filled with eating, eating, eating – mostly rich food!   Randy and I have decided it’s time for a primarily vegetarian diet over the next couple of weeks.  I decided to start with this Moroccan stew, which  I’ve had on my mind to make for a couple of months, ever since it was served at my book club.  (thanks to Ruth Charchian!) I’ve been looking for some new recipes that use preserved lemon and harissa and this one is delicious!  It’s a riff on one originally posted on Smitten Kitchen.  Orange-based Corfu Salad is a delightful complement to this flavorful stew, and a dry rose wine pairs perfectly!

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
2 1/2 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash (about one small squash)
2 1/2 cups peeled and cubed red potatoes (about 3 medium potatoes)
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth or chicken stock
2 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, including juice
Pinch saffron threads (optional)
1/2 preserved lemon peel, minced
1 cup brined green olives (I used green olives in herbs de Provence)
1-2 teaspoons harissa, to taste
Fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
Toasted sliced almonds
Couscous, cooked according to directions (I used whole wheat)

Heat olive oil in a 3- to 4-quart Dutch oven over medium heat. When hot, add onion, garlic, cumin, and cinnamon.  Cook, stirring, until spices are aromatic and onions are soft, about 5 minutes.

Add squash and potatoes, stir to coat and saute another couple of minutes. Add broth, chickpeas, tomatoes with juice and saffron, if using. Bring mixture to a bubble, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.  The squash and potatoes should be easily pierced with a fork, but not mushy or falling apart.

Remove from heat and stir in preserved lemon, olives and harissa. Serve over the cooked couscous and garnish with the cilantro and almonds.

Cook’s Notes: If you do not have preserved lemon, add the juice of 1/2 lemon at the end instead.  If you do not have harissa, but want a little heat, you can use hot sauce to taste on individual portions.  I think this would be good with Kalamata or Moroccan oil-cured olives as an alternative to the green.  If using these, I would cut back on the amount.

Aunt Suzy says

About 12 years ago the New York Times Sunday magazine ran an article on Moroccan cooking with recipes for preserved lemons (salt-brined lemons) and harissa (a spicy hot pepper condiment or sauce).  This single article opened up doors to flavors, a cooking culture and cooking methods that I had never been exposed to before – and which dramatically changed the way I cook ever since then!   Homemade preserved lemons and harissa really outshine storebought, but if you don’t have the time or ingredients to make one or both of these, Le Moulins Mahjoub and Mustapha’s Moroccan both make very high quality Moroccan/North African ingredients including these two items.  Look to kitchen or specialty food stores and your local co-ops.  Both are available, as well, through Amazon.com.

Margaux says

If Meyer lemons aren’t available (they’re only in season from December-March), you can use regular lemons.   And you can buy preserved lemons in some stores, like Whole Foods, but they’re not NEARLY as good as homemade.

PRESERVED LEMONS

6 Meyer lemons

1/2 cup kosher salt

1 tablespoon cardamom pods

2-3 bay leaves

1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, more if needed

This recipe is enough for a one-quart mason jar; adjust amounts accordingly for larger or smaller glass containers.  A wide-mouth jar is recommended, making it easier to remove the lemons for use later. Sterilize the jar by pouring boiling water into it.  Pour out the water and then proceed as follows. Quarter the lemons from the top to within 1/2 inch of the bottom, sprinkle salt on the exposed flesh, then reshape the fruit.  Place 1 tablespoon salt on the bottom of the jar.  Pack in the lemons and push them down, adding more salt and the herbs/spices between layers.  Press the lemons down to release their juices and to make room for the remaining lemons.  Add freshly squeezed lemon juice to cover the lemons.  You might find recipes that call for covering lemons with water, but we think using juice creates a better product.  Leave a little air space before putting the lid on the jar.  Place the jar in the refrigerator and shake the jar daily to distribute the salt.

The lemons are ready to use after 4-6 weeks.   Most recipes use only the peel.  To use, remove the desired amount from the jar and discard the pulp unless the recipe instructs otherwise.  Rinse the peel under running water.  Preserved lemons will keep up to a year in the refrigerator.  The salt brine can be used two or three times over the course of a year.  Remove bay leaves and coriander seeds after about 2 months, as they will make the lemons taste bitter over time.  NOTE:  I have also seen red peppercorns or a slice of red bell pepper put into the jar to add some color.

HARISSA SAUCE

1/2 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper (available atPenzey’s Spices)

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Whisk all ingredients together and place in a small, sterilized jar with a tight-fitting lid.  Use as instructed in recipes and pass as a condiment when serving Moroccan Food.  This will also keep up to one year in the fridge by pouring a little olive oil over the Harissa after each use to prevent mold.  NOTE:  There are probabaly as many recipes for Harissa as there are cooks.  It’s usually a fiery pepper paste or sauce, but I have also seen sweet versions of this from Tunesia.  We enjoy this recipe as well as the Le Moulins Mahjoub and Mustapha’s Moroccan products.