I’m one of those folks who loves breakfast for dinner. And lately I’ve been loving dinner for breakfast, so much so that I’ve been implementing this practice with increasing frequency for some time now.
I suppose what I mean is that I no longer attach the “breakfast” or “dinner” label to foods that traditionally fit into those categories. The older I get the more I think that associating certain foods with a particular meal or time of day may limit our meal-planning creativity and deprive our bodies of the broadest array of flavors and nutrients available.
Upon studying diverse cultures around the world, including what they do for their daily meals, I realize just how many possibilities exist to keep our taste buds intrigued and our internal (and external) systems happy and well-nourished. For example, many Asian cultures eat some sort of soup, stew, or curry for breakfast, a practice almost unheard of in the rest of the world. And to be honest, until the past decade or so I would have thought the idea was ludicrous.
Funny, because I grew up considering “breakfast for dinner” as the Best. Thing. Ever!
Yet it never occurred to me that dinner for breakfast was a thing—or at least a thing I wanted to try—until more recently. Now I know just how much I was missing out. By stepping outside the box, I opened myself up to far more possibilities to nourish my body with delicious and nutritious food.
One of my all-time favorite things for breakfast is shakshuka, a luscious and incredibly flavorful North African dish made of eggs poached in a fragrant, spicy tomato sauce. I discovered this fantastic meal years ago, and lately it’s been gaining some serious traction and popularity on this side of the pond. Shakshuka is enjoyed as a breakfast food in regions all across the Middle East and North Africa, with each region providing its own flair. While it’s most often vegetarian, some recipes call for braised meat (most commonly lamb), or Merguez sausage, a spiced lamb sausage originating from Algeria. I prefer mine vegetarian, flecked with briny olives. Tangy feta cheese sprinkled on top gets all melty when baked and complements the spicy tomato sauce so well. I also like to serve mine with a dollop of thick yogurt as a condiment. I’ve tweaked this recipe to my own personal taste by combining methods and ingredients from multiple sources.
I serve this with a really good crusty bread slathered with butter, but if you want to take a more traditional approach, try a flatbread or pita of some sort. For a more rounded meal, a crisp, simple tossed salad would be just the right touch.
Shakshuka with Oil-Cured Olives, Feta, and Herbs
Makes 2 very hearty servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, sliced
1 small sweet bell pepper (I like the color contrast of yellow peppers here, but red or orange work just as well)
2 cloves garlic, minced
¾ teaspoon smoked or sweet paprika
¾ teaspoon cumin
1 pinch cayenne, or to taste
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 (14.5 oz.) whole tomatoes with juice, squeezed with your fingers
8 oil-cured olives, roughly chopped (optional)
2 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1–2 tablespoons each chopped parsley, mint, and cilantro
Greek or strained yogurt, to serve (optional)
Crusty bread, pita, flatbread, or challah (for serving)
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Heat small cast-iron pan over medium heat. Add olive oil, onions, and peppers. Cook until onions are lightly caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, spices, and salt and pepper. Cook for about 1 minute. Add squeezed tomatoes and all their juices to pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5–10 minutes. Add chopped olives, if using.
- Make a well in the simmering tomato sauce and carefully crack an egg into it. Repeat with the remaining eggs. Spoon a little of the simmering sauce over the whites to start poaching them (this helps cook the whites through without overcooking the yolks). Crumble feta atop sauce, being careful not to break the yolks. Transfer pan to the oven.
- Bake shakshuka until whites are fully set, but yolks are still runny, about 10–15 minutes, depending on the size of your eggs. Check at around the 7-minute mark to be sure you don’t overcook the eggs. Once eggs are cooked to your liking, remove pan from oven. Sprinkle with chopped mint, cilantro, and parsley. Serve hot and straight from the pan on toasted bread.
Image from Briana Goodall.