Eggplant and Zucchini Shakshuka

I call any eggs cooked in any kind of red vegetable sauce a Shakshuka. If you want to make a more traditional version, you can try Ottolenghi's recipe (he also has a good one in his Jerusalem cookbook).

Clearly, I love egg dishes. But I especially love egg dishes that can be made for a crowd. Omelets or fried eggs are you usually best in small batches, but when you bake eggs, you can get a whole bunch going at one time... and that means that this type of dish can be served at a brunch, lunch, or even at a dinner party. They're still best served hot and fresh, but the sauce can be made ahead of time, and you could add and cook the eggs at the last minute for your guests.

I served this dish to my family for lunch along with a salad, and good crusty bread. Good crusty bread should probably be listed as an ingredient in this recipe.

This dish is super satisfying, deeply flavorful, and easily adjustable. Add or omit the veggies you like. The key is to have a chunky homemade tomato sauce with lots of veggies that has a kick to it. However you make it, enjoy!

Eggplant and Zucchini Shakshuka
Serves 4

1 small eggplant, cubed
1 tablespoon kosher salt
olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 small bell pepper (orange or red), diced
1 small zucchini, cubed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large tomato, diced
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
big pinch crushed red chili flake (or to taste)
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup plain tomato sauce/pureed tomatoes
1 teaspoon honey (or to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
8 eggs (2 per person)
chopped flat leaf parsley, for garnish

Preheat your oven to 375°F.

Start by preparing your eggplant. Cut it into small cubes, and sprinkle the cubes evenly with a tablespoon of kosher salt. Let it stand in a colander for 30 minutes. The salt will make the eggplant less bitter, and it will also prevent it from getting to soggy.

While your eggplant sits in salt, prep the rest of your veggies.

On medium high heat, drizzle in a few tablespoons of olive oil into a large cast iron skillet or braiser Dutch oven (if you don't have either, you can use 2 skillets, stainless steel is better than non-stick... but use what you got!). Let the olive oil get hot, and then add the salted and drained eggplant. Cook the eggplant until it starts to brown and soften, and is mostly cooked through.

Next, add the onion, pepper, and zucchini. Cook until all of the veggies soften and start to brown, about 6-8 minutes. Add more oil if the pan looks dry. Add the garlic, and cook until it softens and starts to smell aromatic, about 1-2 minutes. Add the tomato, then add the spices and cook everything for one minute until the veggies are coated in the spice mixture. Add the tomato paste, and coat all of the veggies in it. Finally add the tomato puree. You should have a very chunky sauce. You can add more or less tomato puree depending on your preference. Finally, season the sauce with honey, salt and pepper. The honey balances out the acidity of the tomatoes, and you can use less or more based on your preference.

Allow the sauce to simmer for 3-5 more minutes, until all of the veggies are fully cooked, and the flavors have come together.

Turn the heat off. At this point, you can reserve the sauce and reheat it just before you are about to cook the eggs. If you are using it immediately, make 8 little wells in the pan. Add one cracked egg to each little well. Cover the pan with a lid, and place it in the oven for 6-8 minutes, or until the eggs are still giggly, but the whites have started to turn opaque above the yolks. Garnish with chopped parsley (not shown in photo, but adds a really nice fresh flavor).

Serve immediately with the aforementioned crusty bread, especially if that bread is toasted!

Indian Spiced Tomato Soup

I've been thinking about the tomato soup from Kerala Indian Restaurant  in Kyoto, Japan since the day I tried it. As I mentioned in my original post about the restaurant, the owner spent years developing the recipe for this soup. He is Japanese born to an Indian father and Japanese mother. He also spent a significant time in England, working at both a French and Italian high-end restaurant. He ended up returning to his home town, and took over his father's successful Indian restaurant. In a way, you can taste the story of his life in this soup.

It's a soup that has Indian, French, and Italian flavors. It's a soup that cannot be improved upon. It's a soup that was developed by someone with passion, curiosity, and an incredible palate. Like many things in Japan, it's a soup made with precision, care, pride, and love.

After tasting it, I knew I would try to recreate it back in the States. I also knew that I wouldn't come close. That didn't matter; if I could make something remotely similar to what I had, it would still be worth eating.

So I made the soup... and no, it's not the same. It's still damn good. It's curiously spiced and satisfying. There's nothing wrong with classic creamy tomato soup, but if you're looking for a soup with more depth of flavor and unusual spices, this recipe is worth a go.

If you don't have all of the spices in your pantry you can skip some of them. But don't skip the cinnamon stick... that's the secret ingredient!

And if you find yourself in Kyoto... got to Kerala Indian Restaurant and order the large portion of the soup.

Indian Spiced Roasted Tomato Soup
Serves 10

14 medium-small very ripe tomatoes, or about 2.5 lbs. worth fresh tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 quart vegetable stock (homemade if possible)
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1 bay leaf
1 12-oz can tomatoes (Mutti brand)
1 tablespoon salt (or to taste)
2 teaspoons ground pepper
3-4 tablespoons brown sugar or honey (or to taste)
1/2 cup half & half

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Slice your tomatoes in half. Lay them cut side down on a lined sheet tray. Place them in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until roasted and soft.

While your tomatoes are roasting, you can start on the base of your soup. In a large soup pot on medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and one diced onion. Sauté your onion until softened, about 6-8 minutes. Once softened, to the onion add the minced garlic, ground coriander, cumin, cardamom and turmeric. Sauté until fragrant, about a minute. Then, add 2 tablespoons tomato paste until the bits of onion are well coated, about 30 seconds. Next, add 1 quart vegetable stock (I prefer homemade, but get low-sodium if it's store bought). Add the cinnamon stick, star anise, and bay leaf to the liquid. Finally, add salt, pepper, and 3 tablespoons of sugar or honey. Depending on the tomatoes, you might need more sugar to balance out the acidity of the tomato. Start in small amounts, and add more later if needed. You can always add the sweetener later, but it's hard to take it away once you've put it in the pot.

Once the tomatoes are roasted, add them, their juices, and the canned tomatoes to the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then turn the heat down to low and allow the soup to simmer for 30 minutes until all the flavors meld together. Using an immersion blender, or a regular blender, puree the soup until smooth.

Finally, add the half & half to the pot. Taste the soup and add more salt, pepper, or even half & half depending on your preference.

If you want to make the soup non-dairy, I think it would taste very good with coconut milk, or a non-dairy creamer. Taste and adjust the amounts according to your liking. Alternatively, you could just add more vegetable stock.

Serve hot, ideally with some fresh garlic naan bread, or a melty grilled cheese.