How to Make Michael Solomonov's Shakshouka

The Middle Eastern egg dish is popular for good reason: It's filling, flavorful and incredibly easy to make. Here's a step-by-step from the man who has helped put Israeli food on the map.
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©food network 2015

©food network 2015

©food network 2015

©food network 2015

©food network 2015

©food network 2015

©food network 2015

©food network 2015

©food network 2015

In the Kitchen with: Michael Solomonov

"I'm an apron guy," says Michael Solomonov, dismissing the offer of a chef's coat and folding back his cuffs to reveal a new pomegranate tattoo. This approachable attitude extends to the recipes in the James Beard Award winner's new book, Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking. Not only does it showcase the elevated Middle Eastern classics he serves at his restaurant by the same name (his Crispy Halloumi with Dates, Walnuts and Apples is legendary), but it also includes the casual, feel-good food he feeds his family and friends at home. Case in point: the Shakshouka Solomonov whipped up for us during a recent visit to Food Network Kitchen. "It's fun to eat in large groups, and it's easy to make," he explains of the popular dish of eggs poached in tomato stew. In Solomonov's version, the vegetables play as important a role as the protein. Here's how he does it.

Photography by Heather Ramsdell

Go Big

"You want the peppers and onions to be part of the dish, so cut them large — not small like in huevos rancheros," says Solomonov. "They are big enough to help scoop up the sauce." He eschews the red peppers many shakshouka recipes call for in favor of the green variety. "They get a bad rap. But my grandmother would use green peppers for stuffed peppers. They have their place. We're going to be using dried pimento, which is the essence of red pepper, and the tomato for sweetness, so why not one green pepper?"

Don't Rush It

Solomonov lets the vegetables cook down slowly. "You don't want it al dente with pieces of raw onion floating in the tomato sauce," he says. Early in the process he throws in salt, "to help leach out the moisture. It helps the onions steam" without browning. A cast-iron skillet is his go-to for this dish: "It holds heat very well for serving," he explains. "You can't transfer shakshouka. You want it in a shallow pan."

Let the Spices Cook

As the vegetables begin to soften, Solomonov adds seasonings. "Dried lime is not traditional," he says, rubbing the nutlike globe on a rasp grater. "It's only used in shakshouka in Israel. It kind of wakes it up." Next, paprika and coriander go in. "The spices are soaking up a little of the fat," he says. "But be careful, because they have a tendency to burn."

Deglaze

"Add the tomato puree slowly, because the sides of the pan can splatter," Solomonov cautions. He stirs the sauce, scraping down the sides with a wooden spoon as it starts to thicken and develop color. "There is nothing as good as tomato caramelizing on the side of a cast-iron pan."

A Spoonful of You-Know-What

"People are weird about adding sugar to savory," says Solomonov, stirring in a hefty tablespoon of the stuff. "I like my shakshouka sweet. It makes it more breakfast-y. Sweet tomatoes and sweet eggs."

These Are the Breaks

As the sauce simmers and the water in the tomatoes cook out, "it will break a little," warns Solomonov. Don't worry. "You get olive oil that is super-fragrant at the top. You don't want it homogenized. You want variation in texture. The funkiness is what makes it so good." 

Turn It Up

Before adding the eggs, Solomonov increases the heat: "The eggs will cool the tomatoes down. You want the whites to start the setting process," he says, breaking an egg with one hand. "If the pan is shallow, you can push aside the sauce with a spoon and make a divot for eggs." 

Finish It Fresh

"I put serranos on top while cooking the eggs," says Solomonov. "You want the yolks to still be soft, but I disagree that they should be runny. You want something to bite into. It's not that big a deal if they overcook a little." He throws cilantro on at the end for freshness. "Parsley would also go well — but not mint."

Better the Next Day

Shakshouka is the ultimate family meal. "It's good for brunch. Add merguez and have it for dinner," says Solomonov. "You can even do it with truffles," he adds, though its humbleness is what is so appealing, says the chef: "I don't want to make it restaurant-y." And if, by chance, you are lucky enough to have leftovers, "let it get cold and then stick it in a pita like an egg salad sandwich." 

Get the Recipe: Shakshouka

For More

Check out more of Michael Solomonov's best recipes in Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking.

Get the Recipes: Quinoa, Peas, and Mint Tabbouleh