Back when I was still a wee little college junior, I started this blog to help me reconcile with some big changes in my life. I had just returned from a life-changing summer in China, recently become single, and was living in a pseudo-apartment for the first time. One of my goals for junior year was to become a decent cook – it didn’t start out pretty, but I’d like to think my cooking skills have improved, even if my food photography skills remain as questionable as ever.
I once totally screwed up Shakshuka in a classic example of a beginner cook overeager to use fancy machines for cooking. I blended three beautiful tomatoes into pulp, then threw in some eggplant, and served the watery mess to my friends. (Sorry guys!) Well this summer, I’ve had nothing but time, which has, among other things, allowed me to take the analog approach to cooking. (That and my blender, the only electronic equipment I brought with me, broke en route to Boston, kind of forcing my hand.)
It’s also allowed me to reflect on what lies ahead as my friends and I move away from Boston and to different corners of the world (…but mostly New York and D.C.). I fulfilled my goal of learning to cook, but for a while now, I’ve been a little lost, consumed in filling out assignments and checking off tasks (with an unhealthy dose of life drama on the side).
I can’t go back and fix all the mistakes (perceived or real) that I made in the past and dwell on all the lost relationships I had, but I can work on moving beyond them. Cooking has become therapeutic, a challenge with each new dish, but also comfort in repeating the familiar. And so I don’t gain like 100 pounds, long bike rides and not-so-long jogs are also calming in their own way, as I focus on the rhythm of my breaths and the constant motion of my legs and clear my head.
And so I’ve revisited Shakshuka, that dish I made as a cocky fledgling cook that reminded me that I still had so much to learn about cooking. (1. Always read through the recipe carefully. 2. Always read through the recipe carefully. 3. Don’t make changes to recipes when you have no idea what you’re doing.) And I think I finally got the hang of it! Now it remains to be seen if I can get the hang of life goals…
Shakshuka (adapted from Delicious Shots) – makes 2 entrée servings or 4 side servings
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed (I used at least 4 cloves)
3 ripe tomatoes, diced
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika (I used 1/2 tsp sweet paprika and 1/2 tsp spicy paprika to uh…spice things up)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp dried oregano (or 1 tbsp fresh oregano)
Chopped parsley (or scallions)
Optional: 1 tsp crushed caraway seeds
In a pan, heat olive oil on medium heat, add onions and cook until translucent, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add cumin and paprika and cook for another minute.
Add tomatoes, salt, pepper, and oregano. Cover (leaving just a sliver for some steam to escape), lower heat, and cook for 10 minutes, then break apart tomatoes using a potato smasher (I just used the back of my wooden spoon). Crack eggs into tomato sauce, making sure to space them out evenly. Sprinkle pepper on top.
Cover the pan and cook for another 8-10 minutes (for less time if you like your yolks runny).
Finish off with chopped parsley, a drizzle of olive oil, and more salt and pepper as needed.