June 22, 2021. Dear Kids– As much as I like the flavors in this Three Pepper Shakshuka, I like it even more because it is the result of a family collaborative effort. One of you kids brought home and made a delicious shakshuka recipe that called for poblano peppers instead of the bell peppers I and many others use in their recipes, so I added those; the other of you kids taught me to accept all peppers regardless of color, shape or national origin, so I added another pepper to the mix; and then Mom thought it would all taste good over grits, so over grits it went!
This tomato and pepper stew, topped with eggs, and with origins in North Africa and with much love in the Middle East, is a versatile and straightforward meal that can be on the table for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner in about 30 minutes. This version gives you three peppers for more vigor and dimension to the stew and the bottom layer of grits brings a lusciousness to each bite that compliments the slightly spicy mix so well. On top of all that, literally, you will enjoy savory hints of the feta along with the brightness of fresh greens and tomatoes. With all that going on for it, this just might be worth putting in your regular dinner rotation so give it a try to see if it’s Rotation Worthy!
Prep Time: About 10 minutes, if you’re in a hurry
Cook Time: About 20 minutes, if you’re in a hurry
GET YOUR STUFF OUT
- 3/4 cups of stone ground or other grits (even quick or instant if you don’t mind and are in a hurry), cooked according to package directions
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, minced
- 2 poblano peppers, trimmed, seeded and minced
- 1 red bell pepper, trimmed, seeded and minced
- 1 jalapeño pepper, trimmed and minced (remove seeds and ribs for milder taste)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin- best if you personally grind it from cumin seed
- 3 garlic cloves, grated or minced
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes with juices, crushed in a deep bowl with your bare, clean hands
- kosher salt, and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
- 8 large eggs
- Toppings You Like- I used feta, sliced grape tomatoes and thinly sliced scallions and garlic scape tops, but use whatever you like- cilantro, parsley, chives, goat cheese, pepitas, crispy onions- the list goes on….
COOK AND PLAY
Play We Are Family by Sister Sledge and get up to cooking this Family Recipe.
- Many Good Things Start with Sautéed Onions. Preheat a large pan over medium heat, add oil, onions and a pinch of salt. Saute onions until they start to soften, about 5-8 minutes. Get a medium saucepan of water going to a boil over high heat or preheat an oven to 375 degrees to cook your eggs in Step 4.
- The More Peppers The Merrier! Stir in peppers and cumin into onions and saute until peppers start to soften and onions start to brown, about 5 minutes.
- A Pop of Garlic and the Tomatoes. Stir in garlic and count to 30, then add the tomatoes and bring to simmer until flavors combine, at least 10 minutes or longer if you have the time and want a deeper flavor.
- Boiled or Baked Eggs- You Pick. Traditionally, you would make 8 wells in the sauce, crack an egg into each, and stick it all into a 375 degree oven until the whites are set and yolks are still runny- about 7-10 minutes. I’m not a fan of this since the eggs never seem to cook evenly, so I go with the precision and speed (you can cook the eggs while the sauce is simmering) of the soft cooked egg- so, while or before the sauce is simmering, add eggs to the boiling water you got going in Step 1 (you did this, didn’t you?) and cook at a simmer to your liking- 6 minutes for runny yolks, 7 minutes for jammy yolks and 8 minutes or more for firm yolks. As soon as you hit your time mark, immediately get eggs into cool water and peel once cool to touch.
- Finishing Touches. To serve, spoon a layer of grits almost to the edge of serving bowl and cover with tomato and pepper stew, keeping an outer ring of golden grits to frame the stew. If you boiled your eggs, cut two eggs lengthwise, place in bowl and top everything with garnishes of your choice. Repeat with other servings.
Peppers. The only pepper Granny ever cooked with was the green bell pepper, which, as you know, I consider to be a waste of a vegetable and a cruelty that impatient and profit minded farmers won’t allow to blossom into a more colorful and mellower yellow, orange or red bell pepper. I will confess to, at first, being intimidated by the array of peppers out there, playing it safe with the anything but green bell peppers, but as a parent I realized I had to break out of my comfort zone to give you kids a broader perspective on food and the world. A perspective you kids have certainly adopted as your own. So, with that in mind, there’s no reason to even limit yourselves to the three peppers in this recipe if you want to explore more wordly flavors with other fresh peppers, like Cubanelle, Anaheim, serrano, habanero and/or Scotch Bonnet, for examples. Why, you could even enhance the stew with a rehydrated sauce made from dried chiles like Guajillo, Chipotle, Ancho and Pasilla, to name a few.
Grits. Grits are worth more than a few words and I hope to get them in detail down the road, but for now, a few words about grits- the “Polenta of the South- will have to suffice. 1. Types of Grits. Stone ground grits are the best, but if you’re in a hurry and don’t mind the taste, you can use regular, quick or instant grits which will cook up 10-15 minutes faster and is nothing to feel bad about in spite of what Cousin Vinny may say. 2. Water to Grit Ratio. Don’t be afraid to add lots of liquid while cooking your stone ground grits to get the consistency you like. The standard ratio is 4 parts liquid (traditionally just salted water) to 1 part grits, but I usually go well beyond that because the grits will be happy to soak it all up and they will be better for it. 3. Grit Flexibility. Stone ground grits will also hold well and even benefit in my mind, covered in a 200 degree oven, adding in a bit more liquid on the stovetop to adjust consistency before you serve them. This will give you some flexibility in making the rest of the meal. I typically get the grits stirred up first and stick them in the oven while I leisurely get to the rest of the meal. 4. Grit Cakes! Leftover grits are amazing fried up as grit cakes. Use a spatula to spread leftover grits into a layer on a baking sheet that is about 1″ thick (if the grits don’t fill the entire sheet, just use the spatula to form the edge that does not reach the rim of the sheet), cover and refrigerate. They will fully firm up as they cool, giving you a canvas to cut from with a knife or biscuit cutter and into shapes that you can fry up with oil/butter in a nonstick pan to crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside! I see now, that this was more than a few words, and I apologize for this.
Variety Is The Spice of Life . There are so many directions you can take your shakshuka- serve it with a grain other than grits or without any grain and with some nice bread, like naan or pita, on the side. Add more or different spices, like coriander, cayenne, cinnamon, cardamom; add more vegetables, like eggplant, zucchini, corn; and/or add some beans, like garbanzo or cannellini. Veganize it by losing the chicken eggs for Vegan Green Eggs. You could even go green and use tomatillos instead of tomatoes for a tomatillo and pepper stew or get rid of the stew and go with a bunch of sauteed greens, like spinach, chard and/or kale, instead of the tomatoes.
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