Shak­shuka ... the new brunch darling

... the new brunch darling

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - DAILY LOCAL NEWS - By Jen­nifer Graue Spe­cial to Dig­i­tal First Me­dia

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.

PHOTO COURTESY OF JEN­NIFER GRAUE

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.

PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVID REAMER

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.

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