Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Henbit and dead nettle shakshuka: eggs, greens and feta in a spicy tomato sauce

Shakshuka is spicy, rich, decadent, yet healthy at the same time. The heat level is why it's commonly known as "eggs in hell". It's a vegetarian North African/Middle Eastern/Israeli meal that's eaten overseas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And it's become a hip brunch meal in some of the hottest West Coast cities. It's vegetarian, gluten-free, low in carbohydrates, low in fat and high in protein. You can omit the feta and it becomes Paleo and dairy-free.

There are a lot of Shakshuka recipes out there, but I've been told that they all leave something out, that when you eat it in the Middle East they add a lot of fresh local herbs and spices, many of which would be foraged. With that in mind, I thought adding henbit to the dish was appropriate, as henbit originates in North Africa.  Dead nettle and curly dock aren't from North Africa, but they have become local here in the US, so I felt they would fit the spirit of adding local greens.

Make sure you only use the top of the henbit plants, as the bottom stems are woody and don't really soften in the dish. I inadvertently left a couple in, and they were the only thing I didn't like.

I am in love with the herbal and sour flavors of the edible weeds mixed in with the spicy, garlicky, soupy, tomatoey sauce. Some people add spinach or kale to shakshuka, but why pay for greens when you can get them for free? And don't limit yourself to what I've used, I imagine this would be delicious with whatever's growing by you. I'm keen to try this with cleavers, nettle, mint or dandelion.

Most shakshuka recipes also use canned tomatoes, but I've tried it both ways, and fresh is sooo much better, but hardly anymore work. Prepared this way, dinner can still be on the table in under an hour, but if you really need to save time, using canned tomatoes will shave off about 10 minutes.

Caution: do not eat dead nettle if pregnant or attempting to become pregnant. People with kidney issues should avoid curly dock. 

Wild greens Shakshuka recipe

Serves 3-6

2 lb. fresh plum (roma) tomatoes, chopped
8 medium eggs
1 large, sweet onion, diced
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups mixed wild greens, chopped
2-3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1 green bell pepper, diced
6 oz. feta cheese, cubed (omit for Paleo and dairy-free)
6 oz. tomato paste, 1 small can
2 tbs. paprika
1 tbs. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
Cayenne powder
olive oil
salt and pepper

1.  Heat 2 tbs. olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the coriander and onion and sauté until translucent and slightly browned. Add in the garlic, bell pepper and jalapeno.  Continue to cook until softened.

2. Add in the tomatoes, wild greens, cumin, 1/2 cup of water, and tomato paste. Break up the tomato paste and mix everything well.  Cover and allow to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring once or twice.

3. Taste for heat, add cayenne to taste. Add in the feta and stir, heat for 2-3 minutes till the cheese starts to melt. I accidentally forgot to add the cheese till after the eggs, and the cheese didn't really melt as well as I would have liked.

4. Make little holes in the tomato mix, and break the eggs into each. Mound some sauce over each egg, and cover. Cook for 15 minutes, till the eggs are cooked and the yolks are soft and golden yellow, but not hard-cooked.

5. You can eat it by itself, or with freshly baked bread, or

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