Shak­shuka — the new brunch dar­ling

The Review - - Obituaries - By Jennifer Graue

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, Is­rael-born Ron Avni, urged him to add it to the menu.

D i she s such as shak­shuka and Burmese pork stew turned the typ­i­cal eggs-potato-toast 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 tomake 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-the-gar­den 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 just­pub­lished “Hello! My Name is Tasty: Global Diner Fa­vorites from Port­land’s Tasty Restau­rants” (Sasquatch Books, $30). Which­ever ver­sion ap­peals, Gorham ad­vises that youmake a lot of it.

“In a big­ger batch, you have­more 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 best­selling 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 post­work­out 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 com­ple- ment the sweet­ness of the cooked greens.

The recipe calls for fry­ing in a good amount of but­ter and olive oil to give the kuku a de­lec­ta­ble brown crust and keep it from stick­ing to the pan; Nos­rat notes that the ex­cess fat is poured off after cook­ing.

On the op­po­site end of the spec­trum is a deca­dent sausage, egg and grits souf­flé from South­ern Liv­ing and To­day Show contributor El­iz­a­beth Heiskell, whose new cook­book, “What Can I Bring? South­ern Food For Any Oc­ca­sion Life Serves Up” (South­ern Liv­ing, $30) comes out later this fall.

“That recipe is fan­tas­tic be­cause you can make it the night be­fore,” she says. “You can put it in the oven, and ( you) don’t have to worry about it, while you’re try­ing to fluff pil­lows and pol­ish silver.”

The souf­flé con­tains a good amount of cheese be­cause, as Heiskell puts it, a South­erner “wouldn’t con­sider it a brunch if you didn’t have cheese grits.”

Pair the casse­role with Bloody Marys, bis­cuits and her recipe for a cola-glazed ham for a sump­tu­ous game-day spread that’s per­fect when an ear­ly­morn­ing kick­off dic­tates a watch-party brunch in­stead of a barbecue.

Armed with these easy recipes, brunch at home be­comes de­li­ciously doable.

Tasty n Sons’ Shak­shuka with Baked Eggs

Serves 6 to 8 Note: This recipe, which can be pre­pared in one large, stain­less steel pan or in­di­vid­ual ramekins, make 2½ quarts of the toma­to­based shak­shuka sauce. Don’t fret over the quan­tity: It freezes well.


1¼ cup ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil, di­vided 2 medium sweet onions, juli­enned 12 cloves gar­lic, thinly sliced 1 ta­ble­spoon sugar 1 ta­ble­spoon ground pi­ment d’Espelette 1½ tea­spoons ground pi­men­ton de la Vera (sweet pa­prika) 1½ tea­spoons ground pa­prika 2 bay leaves 1 quart canned stewed whole plum toma­toes with liq­uid 1 quart red bell pep­pers (about 8 medium), roasted and juli­enned 2 cups green bell pep­pers (about 5 medium), roasted and juli­enned Kosher salt and freshly ground black pep­per 6 to 8 large eggs 1 loaf rus­tic bread, sliced into ½-inch thick slices


In a large, heavy-bot­tomed, non­re­ac­tive pot set over medium heat, add 1 cup of the olive oil and sauté the onions and gar­lic for 10 to 12 min­utes, or un­til translu­cent.

Add the sugar, pi­ment, pi­men­ton, pa­prika and bay leaves and cook for about 2 min­utes, or un­til the fla­vor and scent of the spices bloom.

Add the toma­toes and bell pep­pers and sim­mer slowly, stir­ring fre­quently, for about 20 min­utes, or un­til the toma­toes break down. Sea­son with salt and pep­per to taste.

Mean­while, heat the oven to 400 de­grees.

Di­vide the hot shak­shuka mix­ture evenly among six to eight shal­low oven­proof con­tain­ers. (Tasty n Sons uses cazue­las, but any ramekin-type dish will work). Make a nest for each egg in the stew, crack the eggs into the hol­lows, and sea­son with salt and pep­per.

Place the ramekins in the oven and check them ev­ery 3 to 4 min­utes. Re­move them once the egg whites have set. Pierce the whites with a spoon to test for done­ness.

While the shak­shuka is bak­ing, driz­zle the sliced bread on both sides with the re­main­ing ¼ cup olive oil, sea­son with salt and pep­per on both sides and toast, grill or bake at 400 de­grees un­til the slices are nicely toasted. Serve with the shak­shuka.


Per­sian Herb and Greens Frittata (Kuku Sabzi)

Serves 6 to 8 Note: To make prep eas­ier, cook the greens, leeks, and chard stems the day be­fore and re­frig­er­ate. Bring to room tem­per­a­ture be­fore pro­ceed­ing.


2 bunches green chard or other ten­der greens, washed 1 large leek Ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil 6 ta­ble­spoons un­salted but­ter, di­vided 4 cups finely chopped cilantro leaves and ten­der stems 2 cups finely chopped dill leaves and ten­der stems 8 or 9 large eggs 1 cup lightly toasted and chopped wal­nuts (op­tional) ¼ cup bar­ber­ries (op­tional)


Heat oven to 350. Strip the chard leaves: Grip­ping at the base of each stem with one hand, pinch the stem with the other hand and pull up­ward to strip the leaf. Re­peat with the re­main­ing chard, re­serv­ing the stems.

Re­move the root and top inch of the leek, then quar­ter it length­wise. Cut each quar­ter into ¼-inch slices, place in a large bowl and wash vig­or­ously to re­move dirt. Drain as much wa­ter as pos­si­ble.

Thinly slice the chard stems, dis­card­ing any tough bits and the base. Add to the leeks and set aside.

Gen­tly heat a 10 or 12inch cast iron pan over me- dium heat and add enough olive oil to coat the bot­tom of the pan. Add the chard leaves and sea­son with a gen­er­ous pinch of salt. Cook, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, un­til the leaves are wilted, 4 to 5min­utes. Re­move chard and set aside to cool.

Re­turn the pan to the stove and heat over a medium flame. Add 3 ta­ble­spoons but­ter. When the but­ter be­gins to foam, add the sliced leeks and chard stems, along with a pinch of salt. Cook un­til ten­der and translu­cent, 15 to 20 min­utes. Stir from time to time; if needed, add a splash of wa­ter, re­duce the flame, or cover with a lid or a piece of parch­ment paper to en­trap steam and keep color from de­vel­op­ing.

Mean­while, squeeze the cooked chard leaves dry, then chop coarsely. Com­bine in a large bowl with the cilantro and dill. When the leeks and chard stems are cooked, add themto the greens. Let the mix­ture cool a bit, then use your hands to mix ev­ery­thing evenly. Taste and sea­son gen­er­ously with salt.

Add the eggs, one at a time, un­til the mix­ture is just barely bound with egg. You might not need to use all 9 eggs, de­pend­ing on how wet your greens were and how large your eggs are. Taste and ad­just the mix­ture for sea­son­ing. If us­ing, add the wal­nuts and/ or bar­ber­ries to the mix­ture and stir to com­bine.

Wipe out and re­heat pan over medium-high heat — this is an im­por­tant step to keep the kuku from stick­ing —and add 3 ta­ble­spoons of but­ter and 2 ta­ble­spoons olive oil, then stir to com­bine. When the but­ter be­gins to foam, care­fully pack the kuku mix­ture into the pan.

To help it cook evenly, dur­ing the first few min­utes of cook­ing, use a rub­ber spat­ula to gen­tly pull the edges of the mix­ture into the cen­ter as they set. After about 2 min­utes, re­duce the heat to medium and let the kuku cook with­out touch­ing it. You’ll know the pan is hot enough as long as the oil is gen­tly bub­bling up the sides.

Peek at the crust by lift­ing with a rub­ber spat­ula. If it’s get­ting too dark, re­duce the heat. Ro­tate the pan a quar­ter turn ev­ery 3 to 4 min­utes to en­sure even brown­ing. After about 10min­utes, when the mix­ture is set and no lon- ger runny and the bot­tom is golden brown, slip the pan into the oven and bake un­til the cen­ter is fully set, 10-12 min­utes. Test for done­ness with a tooth­pick or shake the pan and look for a slight jig­gle at the top. When it’s done, care­fully flip it onto a plate. Blot away ex­cess oil. Eat warm, at room tem­per­a­ture or cold.


Sausage, Egg and Grits Souf­fle

Serves 10 Note: This can be made a day or two ahead and re­frig­er­ated be­fore bak­ing. Like a souf­flé, it will de­flate shortly after it comes out of the oven, so if you’re tak­ing it some­where, bake it at your des­ti­na­tion.


1 pound hot ground pork sausage 1 cup quick cook­ing grits 2 cups sharp ched­dar cheese, shred­ded (about 8 ounces), di­vided 2 ounces salted but­ter 7 large eggs beaten 1½ cups whole milk ½ tea­spoon kosher salt ½ tea­spoon black pep­per


Heat the oven to 350 de­grees. Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch bak­ing dish.

In a large skil­let set over medium heat, cook the sausage un­til browned, stir­ring un­til crum­bled and no longer pink, about 8 min­utes. Drain well.

Cook the grits in a Dutch oven ac­cord­ing to the pack­age direc­tions. Stir in 1½ cups cheese. Add the but­ter, stir­ring un­til the cheese and but­ter melt.

In a sep­a­rate bowl, com­bine the eggs, milk, salt and pep­per. Slowly stir the egg mix­ture into the grits. Stir in the sausage.

Trans­fer the grits mix­ture to the pre­pared bak­ing dish. Bake un­til golden brown, puffed and set, about 1 hour. Sprin­kle with re­main­ing ½ cup cheese and bake un­til the cheese melts, about 5 min­utes more.



This sausage, egg and grits souf­fle makes a stel­lar brunch dish. Tak­ing it to a tail­gate or buf­fet? The egg and grit mix­ture can be trans­ported in a zip bag, then poured and baked on site.


When Port­land’s Tasty n Sons put Shak­shuka, a poached egg and tomato- pep­per brunch dish, on the­menu, they launched crav­ings up and down the West Coast.


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.

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