The farmers’ markets near our house don’t open for another week, but I’ve had a yen for local produce shopping since early May, so on Memorial Day weekend, Pete and I headed to the lovely downtown St. Paul Farmers’ Market. It’s the most charming larger market I’ve ever been to and it’s always bustling.
I knew there would be lots of flowers and bedding plants, however, there ended up being more fresh produce than I expected. Pretty radishes, vibrant lettuces and spinach, spring onions, asparagus, green garlic, straight-from-the-farm eggs and even some potatoes (that must have been greenhouse grown)—we filled our totes to over-flowing.
Once home, I wanted to get at least some of our cache into breakfast. An omelet or frittata seemed too predictable, so I looked to the “Morning” section of my new cookbook, sure inspiration would be found. Sunday Suppers: Recipes & Gatherings by Karen Mordechai is delightful and teeming with fresh recipes and ideas for creative twists on basic dishes. It’s broken down into sections—morning, noon, afternoon and evening, offering full menus for various themes, many of which adapt well to picnics and meals on the road.
Like so many of my cookbooks in recent years, this was purchased at the Lake Superior Trading Post in Grand Marais. They have an ever-changing selection of unique cookbooks tucked away in a corner of the rustic second floor. I read it from cover-to-cover on our drive home from the cabin last month, and remembered there were a couple breakfast recipes that intrigued me.
Shakshuka—it’s a Middle Eastern breakfast dish that’s much more fun to say than “poached eggs in tomato sauce.” I had never heard of it, but if a recipe makes my mouth water just reading it, I must make it! I had most of the ingredients on hand and suitable substitutes for those I didn’t. Plus it was fun to see the look on Pete’s face when I said we’re having shakshuka. After a brief stunned silence, he said “Gesundheit!”
This was so good I made it two weekends in a row. Make sure to have some good quality bread (sour dough rye is wonderful!) or fresh pitas to dip in those runny egg yolks and saucy stew. I guarantee, if you make this once, you will make it again! Next time, I’m making it for company. Enjoy!
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 green bell pepper or other bell pepper, chopped into 1” pieces
1 bay leaf
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ to 1 jalapeño pepper, minced (include the seeds for extra heat)
A couple handfuls fresh spinach, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
10 oz cherry tomatoes, quartered (or 10 oz. full sized ripe tomatoes, diced)
One 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Additional salt and pepper, to taste
Chopped fennel fronds, green onion, parsley or cilantro, for garnish (optional)
Bread or fresh pitas, for dipping
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pepper, bay leaf, onion, garlic, and jalapeño and cook for about 5 minutes, until the onion has softened. Stir in the chopped spinach and cook a couple minutes more until spinach is wilted. Add the salt, pepper, paprika, fennel, cumin, and coriander. Cook for a minutes, stirring constantly, to release the fragrance (breath in, it will smell amazing!)
Add the fresh and canned tomatoes and the tomato paste, reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until the sauce has thickened. Remove bay leaf.
With the back of a spoon, make four indentations in the sauce. Crack an egg into each indentation. Season the eggs with salt and pepper. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until the eggs are done to your liking, 10-15 minutes. Scoop eggs and sauce into bowls and garnish with fennel fronds, etc., if desired. Serve with good quality bread (toasted or not) or fresh pitas.