My husband's grandfather was a nice Jewish boy from the Bronx. That's how the whole lot of them became committed Yankees fans, even though, long story (it's a good one--a love story), they ended up south of the Mason-Dixon line. Down there, Tar Heels fandom became an additional precondition for marriage into the clan. Fast forward to Los Angeles, where presently we lay our scene, cars adorned with pinstripes and an Old Well mezuzah on the front door. (If you, too, bleed Carolina blue, you can get one from the UNC Hillel store.)
Shortly after we moved to L.A., I suggested to my husband that we should find a hometown team to root for. We're Giants fans (apparently), so football was out. We briefly considered the Kings, but you don't relocate from the Northeast to Southern California and take up the local hockey team. So Lakers fans we became. As part of our acclimation process, I also thought we should embrace local foodways. That's how Shakshuka Angeleno came about, a happy fusion of huevos rancheros and shakshuka. Think pinto beans seasoned with cumin, ancho, and harissa, simmered with fire-roasted tomatoes, then studded with poached eggs and topped with avocado, queso fresco, and labaneh. Isramexi (Mexisraeli?) has got to be up there for quintessential L.A. fusion brunch.
If you can't find queso fresco, feta works well in its stead. (Queso fresco is a semi-soft, crumbly white Mexican fresh cheese; there's some disagreement about the nomenclature, but in any case, I've never seen a kosher certified version, so I DIY it.) Or leave off the cheese for parve. For dipping into all those beany tomatoes, you can certainly go the pita route, but around here we like to pair this with cornbread. It's a little southwest...and a bit southeast, I suppose. Viva Heels.
Shakshuka--that is, the classic Israeli preparation--is a fundamentally simple dish. You cook down some onions and tomatoes, seasoned a bit with cupboard spices, then poach the eggs in the tomato base. Equipment-wise, all you really need is a lidded skillet, because the eggs need to poach under the steamy cover of the lid. Other than that, the eggs poach themselves right in the tomato sauce, no fussy water bath.
Here we're adding beans, because Mexisraeli!
Shortcut or scenic route, your call
While shakshuka is traditionally made with fresh tomatoes, and sometimes red bell peppers, simmered until they're soft and saucy, today many recipes call for some version of canned tomatoes. Yachin makes a shakshuka base, and now you can pick one up at Trader Joe's, too (along with its rebranded Bamba; both are OU-parve). I think fire-roasted, canned tomatoes are great here and make the dish easier to pull together. If you like, you could chop a ripe tomato or two and add them in with the onions for a bright pop of tomato flavor.
Another shortcut that makes this shakshuka come together fast is using canned beans. I often have leftover beans around that are great to use in this dish, but I've made it both ways, with cooked beans and canned beans, and I think the shortcut works very well. If you'd like to cook your beans from dried (the scenic route), factor in the time to give the beans a nice, long soak, 8 hours or so, plus a good simmer, 2-4 hours on the stovetop, or a good hour in an Instant Pot (pressure cooker), including the time it take to get to pressure.
For this Angeleno version of shakshuka, the beans are mashed, just a bit, with an immersion (stick) blender before the tomatoes are added. I've not had great results using a potato masher instead of the immersion blender to purée the beans, so I recommend leaving all the beans whole if you don't have one. The dish is great that way, too.
How to get the layers of Israeli & Mexican flavors
My Angeleno-style shakshuka gets its layers of flavor from the spices added during cooking: oregano, cumin, and ancho repping Mexico while garlic, sweet paprika, and harissa bring in the flavors of northern Africa. Then, there's the multicultural texture of the toppings added after cooking: cilantro, avo, queso fresco, and labaneh.
You can buy harissa as a paste--Mina makes both a mild and a spicy version--or buy it as a powdered spice (this is the kind I have; my bottle is KSA) and mix it with a little bit of olive oil to make a paste.
Shakshuka Angeleno (dairy or parve)
- Lidded, straight-sided skillet
- Immersion blender
- 1 ½ cups cooked or canned pinto beans - from one can, or ¾ cup dried beans
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 Tbsp olive oil - plus more for drizzling
- 1 14.5oz (411g) can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes - the regular-sized can, not the huge one
- ¼ cup tomato paste - from one small can/container
- ½ cup water
- 1 Tbsp fresh oregano - Mexican, if you can find it; or, ½ tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp cumin
- ½ tsp sweet paprika
- ½ tsp ancho chili powder - or regular chili powder
- 1 tsp harissa paste - plus more, for serving
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- 4 eggs
- 2 Tbsp labaneh or sour cream - optional; omit for parve
- ¼ cup queso fresco or feta, crumbled - optional; omit for parve
- 1 avocado, sliced or mashed
- ¼ cup cilantro, roughly chopped
Make the shakshuka base:
- In a large, straight-sided, lidded skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat, until it shimmers. Add the diced onion and cook, uncovered, until the onion is softened and beginning to brown, 5-7 minutes.
- To the onion, add the dry spices--cumin, sweet paprika, ancho chili powder, salt, and pepper. Toast for a few seconds, then add the tomato paste and harissa paste and mix well.
- Add the cooked or canned beans to the skillet. Cover, and allow to soften, still over a medium flame, for another 5-7 minutes.
- When the beans are soft, remove the skillet from the heat. Using the immersion blender, lightly mash about half the beans and onions, right in the skillet, until they are creamy but not completely smooth. Leave the rest of the beans whole.
- Return the skillet to the heat, turned to medium-low. Add the fire-roasted diced potatoes and the ½ cup water to the refried beans. Stir to combine. Add the fresh (or dried) oregano, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes.
Poach the eggs in the bean-tomato base:
- Using a spoon or spatula, make an indentations in the shakshuka base, into which you will crack the egg.
- Carefully crack an egg into a glass measuring cup or small bowl. Pour the egg into the indentation.
- Working quickly, repeat with the remaining three eggs.
- When all the eggs have been slipping into the shakshuka base, cover the skillet. Poach the eggs, undisturbed, in the bean-tomato base until the whites are just cooked through and the yolk is still runny, 3-4 minutes.
Add the toppings:
- Dollop ½ a tablespoon of labaneh by each egg, if using. Sprinkle with queso fresco (or feta), avocado, and cilantro. Dribble some additional olive oil and harissa on top of each egg.