I’ve had this recipe on my “to-make” list for quite some time now. I’m excited to be finally sharing it with you! Have you ever heard of Shakshuka? This one-dish recipe originated in North Africa and was actually considered peasant food because of it’s cheap and widely available ingredients: tomatoes, eggs, peppers and spices. But don’t let its peasant qualities fool you. This dish is packed with flavor and nutrition. What’s not to love about eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce? Or breaking the egg open to let the yolky goodness flow into and thicken the tomato sauce, creating the ultimate bread dipper? Promise me you’ll try it, at least once.

{Unless you’re allergic to eggs or tomatoes}

So what exactly is so healthy about Shakshuka? Check out these nutrition stats:

Tomatoes: Cooked tomatoes are full of lycopene, an antioxidant that gives tomatoes (and other foods) their red color and may have cancer-preventing capabilities; specifically prostate, stomach and lung cancer. Like all carotenoids, lycopene is best absorbed with some fat – hello egg yolk. Studies demonstrating such cellular, cancer-fighting activity have occurred either in vitro or in vivo, so we cannot yet translate such conclusions to humans. However, numerous studies have found that the more tomato products men ate, the less likely they were to develop prostate cancer.

Onions: While not particularly rich in vitamins and minerals, onions do contain high levels of the anti-inflammatory antioxidant quercetin, and a variety of sulfides which all confer tumor suppressing activity. A 2005 study found that raw onions contain more antioxidants than cooked, and that these nutrients are concentrated in the outer layers of the onion so be sure to peel the onion as little as possible. Additionally, onions contain the soluble fibers oligofructose, which promotes good bacteria growth in the intestines; and chromium, which helps regulate blood sugar.

Garlic: Garlic contains allicin and thiosulfinates, immune boosting and cardiovascular-protecting phytonutrients that prevent blood clots and reduce inflammation. To best preserve these nutrients, consume your garlic raw (pesto, hummus, salsa, homemade dressings) or let it sit for 10 minutes after shopping it up before cooking it.

Eggs: As most of you know, eggs have historically had a bad reputation. Health professionals told us to avoid them at all costs to prevent and treat escalating cholesterol levels and ultimately, heart disease. But more recently, we’re being told that all this hooplah about eggs being bad for us is nonsense (largely due to the egg industry’s misleading claims), and that we should enjoy our eggs; daily, even. So what’s the real deal with eggs?

For people who are already at risk for heart disease (overweight/obese, elevated cholesterol levels with high LDL, elevated homocysteine, etc), eggs may not be so good for you. They seem to further increase LDL cholesterol – aka the bad cholesterol – which can be oxidized causing plaque in the arteries.

On the flip side, healthy people with no underlying vascular disease experience no risk in developing heart disease by increasing their intake of cholesterol from eggs. In healthy people, eggs seem to increase the good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol, but the form of LDL appears to be less atherogenic. Additionally, eggs are a great source of eye-protecting antioxidants lutein and zeanxthin, as well as the underrated nutrient choline; nutrients that are beneficial to everyone.

It is also important to note the difference in the way people’s cholesterol levels respond to egg consumption. People appear to be either:

a) hyporesponders – experience a mild increase or no alterations in plasma cholesterol concentrations when challenged with high amounts of dietary cholesterol.

b) hyperresponders – experience an increase in plasma cholesterol following egg consumption.

Apparently 70% of the population are hyporesponders! Are you feeling lucky?

I find it fascinating that individuals can respond differently to a single food. How is that two men of the same age can eat a diet low in fruits and vegetables, and high in sodium and saturated fat, but only one develops severe atherosclerosis leading to several heart attacks, while the other lives a long life free of any heart conditions? The study of Nutritional Genomics looks at how the foods we eat alter our health, and vice versa. Although this science is gaining momentum, it is still in its infancy and providing this type of personalized nutrition requires genome sequencing which isn’t widely practiced and is quite expensive. But more on nutrigenomics later. Let’s get back to Shakshuka…

Shakshuka recipes vary greatly and you’ll see people add things like cheese, other spices and herbs. Traditionally, shakshuka consisted mainly of eggs, tomato sauce and cumin. But I felt the need to add some feta, parsley, and scallion to jazz things up a bit. And it was totally worth it.

Shakshuka

Serves 3

6 eggs

1-28oz can diced tomatoes

8 cloves garlic, chopped

1 medium red onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 jalapeno, chopped

1/2 Tablespoon cumin (plus more if you like)

1/4 Tablespoon paprika

salt and pepper to taste

feta, parsley and scallion to garnish

-In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil and add the onions, peppers and garlic. Cook until slightly soft, about 5 minutes.

-Add the cumin, paprika and a dash of salt and pepper, and allow to cook 1 minute longer.

-Add the tomatoes and let simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently to be sure things are sticking to the bottom.

-Gently crack each egg so that it rests in the tomato sauce cook for another 10-12 minutes. Be sure your sauce isn’t boiling or else you risk your eggs cracking. And then you miss out on that glorious experience of cracking it yourself!

-You’ll know the eggs are done once the whites have settled and their consistency no longer resembles mucous 🙂

 

I love to see you cooking! Tweet me @TheFreshBeet with a photo of your Shakshuka or share it on my Facebook page.

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