Shakshuka ... the new brunch darling
... the new brunch darling
When chef John Gorham put shakshuka on the menu at Portland’s Tasty n Sons when it opened in 2010, the dish was virtually unknown in the United States. You might spot this breakfast entree of poached eggs nestled in a savory, not-too-spicy tomato-pepper stew at an Israeli or Middle Eastern restaurant, but shakshuka was far from a weekend brunch staple.
“I thought we were pushing it,” he recalls thinking when his business partner, Israelborn Ron Avni, urged him to add it to the menu.
Dishes such as shakshuka and Burmese pork stew turned the typical eggs-potatotoast formula on its head — and put Tasty n Sons on the map.
“We really were trying to disrupt the whole brunch market,” Gorham says.
Now the colorful dish, which originated in Tunisia before spreading across the Middle East, has become a Bay Area brunch darling. You’ll find a harissa-spiked version at Berkeley’s Revival Bar and Kitchen, for example, and a shakshuka fortified with chickpeas at Oakland’s Shakewell. There’s even a green shakshuka, made with eggs baked in creamed kale — a flirtation with eggs Florentine — at Oren’s Hummus Shop in Mountain View.
I was dipping a hunk of bread into the shakshuka at Tasty n Sons recently, soaking up the spicy-sweet stew and yolks like liquefied sunshine, when it occurred to me that this dish would be so easy to make at home. It’s high time to disrupt my own brunch routine.
With shakshuka as a starting point, I set out to find other brunch recipes that glorify eggs, are easy to make ahead and appeal to everyone, including gluten-free guests. And there’s no better time than late summer to stir up a batch of shakshuka, while tomatoes and bell peppers are abundant.
“You get that brighter, fresher out-of-thegarden stew, which is amazing,” says Gorham, who makes a version at home with produce from his Portland garden. At the restaurant, he relies on quality stewed canned tomatoes and roasted peppers, a recipe that’s featured in his new cookbook, the just-published “Hello! My Name is Tasty: Global Diner Favorites from Portland’s Tasty Restaurants” (Sasquatch Books, $30). Whichever version appeals, Gorham advises that you make a lot of it.
“In a bigger batch, you have more liquids to reduce down and get more depth of flavor,” he says.
Freeze it in pints and pull it out all year long for a quick and easy brunch, especially in winter when the spicy stew really hits the spot. Merguez sausage or feta are common additions to the dish. Serve it with loaves of crusty bread for dipping, either grilled or fresh, along with olives and hummus.
Vegetables also figure prominently in kuku sabzi, a Persian dish similar to a frittata that Berkeley-based chef and author Samin Nosrat calls “insanely healthy.”
The recipe in her best-selling new cookbook, “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking” (Simon & Schuster, $35), is packed full of greens and herbs, ideal for a virtuous post-workout Sunday brunch with hiking buddies.
“Push yourself when you’re making it,” she says. “You should be a little bit scared about how much green you’re fitting in. And chop them more finely than you think.”
To minimize work in the morning, Nosrat, a Chez Panisse alum, recommends prepping and cooking the greens the day before and refrigerating them overnight. In the morning, mix in the eggs and cook it. Kuku sabzi can be served warm, at room temperature or even cold, which means there’s no stress about keeping the dish warm on a brunch buffet. Nosrat likes to serve it with walnuts, feta and sour pickled vegetables that complement the sweetness of the cooked greens.
Portland’s Tasty n Sons launched Shakshuka’s West Coast popularity when the chef put this savory brunch dish of eggs poached in a savory tomato-pepper stew on the menu.
When Portland’s Tasty n Sons put Shakshuka, a poached egg and tomato- pepper brunch dish, on the menu, they launched cravings up and down the West Coast.