Fennel is a vegetable of mystery. I privately harbor the suspicion that thousands of them escaped the set of Toy Story only to hide among cabbages and watercress in your local supermarket. I needed one to play in the kitchen as a guitar, practicing for my Mardi Gras gigs this weekend at Tonic and Rochester Art Center, also one to make this winter Tunisian dish (or some might argue, Ottomon Empire dish)—which, curiously, with the poached egg finale looks on the plate much like the Turkish flag. I envy the North Africans their winters right about now—on a late February day with new ice curbs forming in the middles of roads and temperatures stubborn below zero.
Shakshuka with Fennel and Feta
Adapted from Food and Wine
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small white onion, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 small fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
2 serrano chiles, seeded and chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
1 green pepper, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 package harissa sauce (I used Saffron Road, but I regret now not making my own from scratch)
1 tbsp smoked Spanish paprika
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, chopped with their liquid
6 large eggs (I only like the egg white on mine)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Add both chiles and the bell pepper and season with salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, red chili flakes and paprika and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and their juice and simmer over low heat until the sauce is thickened, 8-10 minutes.
Make 5 little divots in the sauce for the eggs to crack right into. Crack the eggs into the sauce and cover the skillet. Cook over low heat until the whites are firm and the yolks are runny, 6-8 minutes.
To serve: Spoon the sauce and eggs into a bowl and top with parsley and feta. Serve hot with warm crusty bread.
What a strange concept, to poach eggs in a skillet with cooked tomatoes. I can’t say I was a huge fan of the flavor profile, and I won’ t blame the fennel because I had too much fun playing with it, but I’m not sure there are enough flavors to balance the tomato’s dominance. I think shakshuka would be better if used as a sauce for an egg sandwich—in which case, this recipe would be worth like 50 sandwiches—a winter barbeque possibility perhaps, a party we may need if the weather doesn’t improve in the next few weeks–when Springs arrives as hollow as a lie.