Shakshuka! What? It’s OK — you know the ingredients even if you don’t recognize the name

Tradition says soft poached eggs on top of the kale and tomatoes, but my friend Dawn cooked white fish fillets with the vegetables and said it was ab-fab.

The name for this Israeli dish sounds like a ’50s doo-wop group but learn it anyway. The name has its origins in the Arabic word for mixture and came to Israel with Jewish immigrants from North Africa.

It’s a tasty, healthy meal with a kick. Also easy, did I mention that? The most challenging part for me was cleaning, de-stemming, massaging (what?) and chopping the kale added to this version.

Kale and I have had a rocky relationship for years. Trying it from the grocery, I’ve thought the taste just this side of death — dark and bitter. When I pick it in the garden, though, and bring it in to cook immediately, it’s a different vegetable. Especially when the tough steams are discarded and the leaves massaged.

OK, what that means is that you begin by washing and spinning your kale. (Or wrap it in kitchen towels to remove excess moisture.) Then pull leaves from both sides of big, chewy stems. Discard stems. Now take two or three leaves at a time and roll them between your hands. This breaks down some fiber and tenderizes the kale.  Now you’re ready to chop the kale into ribbons. Throw the ribbons into a colander and let them dry out a little more while you’re fixing the other ingredients.

I started with Elettra Wiedemann’s recipe in the Sept. 25 issue of People magazine. Elettra, however, obviously has a mouth lined with asbestos because she recommended 1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes. I cut it back to 1 teaspoon and we could hardly eat it (although it did calm down over the next two days). Next time I’m going with 1/2 teaspoon.

Also, she tells you to use 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes and 1 cup water. That made no sense to me so I weighed out 2.5 pounds of our fresh tomatoes, cut them in half, de-seeded them with my fingers and skipped the water. This yielded what I considered a good consistency.

Shakshuka reheats surprisingly well if you have leftovers and if you have it for breakfast, it will wake up you and your sinuses!

Kale shakshuka

4 tablespoons good quality olive oil plus 6 teaspoons for drizzling on bread

1/2 to 1 teaspoon (max!) crushed red pepper flakes

2 garlic cloves, minced

About 4 cups chopped kale

1 teaspoon salt, divided

About 1 cup yellow onion, chopped 

28-30 ounces fresh tomatoes, quartered and seeded

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

6 large eggs

6 thick slices rustic bread

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large skillet. Add red paper and garlic, cook, stirring, until fragrant. Add kale and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, tossing often, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Transfer kale to bowl and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in skillet. Add onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, until onion has softened.  Stir in tomatoes, cumin, cinnamon and bring to boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Return kale mixture to skillet and add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Crack eggs into vegetable mixture. Cover and cook until egg whites are opaque, about 8 to 10 minutes, without lifting the cover.

While eggs cook, toast bread and drizzle each slice with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Serves 6.

You won’t believe the difference between garden fresh kale and tough, wilty kale from the supermarket.



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