Thursday, December 29, 2011


I'm back from staffing Taglit-Birthright Israel.  It was an amazing experience to be able to travel to Israel again and to help other young adults have a chance to see Israel for the first time.  I joked with the 40 participants on my bus that they were luckier than the other buses going to Israel this winter because they were going to have a culinary tour of Israel. 

When we went to Mahane Yehuda, the large “shuk,” or market, in Jerusalem I showed everyone where to get persimmons, spices, halva, sesame cookies, olives, dried fruit, nuts, and ruggelah.  As we toured all of Israel I helped the participants negotiate the toppings bar for shwarma and falafel (my favorites are red cabbage, pickles and eggplant), get a great lamb-burger when they were tired of falafel (Burgers Bar), enjoy the *BEST* ruggelah (Marzipan bakery), and pick out the perfect chocolate bars to bring back to their friends and family (Elite makes a bar with Pop Rocks inside the chocolate!).

But my favorite food in Israel is the lesser known Shakshukah.  Shakshukah is primarily a breakfast food, but you can find it served all day long at most places.  It is a tomato, onion, and pepper sauce with poached eggs.  It’s delicious. In Jaffa, there is even a restaurant dedicated to it, appropriately named Dr. Shakshukah. 

Here is a picture of the Shakshukah I had in Tiberius. 

Shakshukah is a combination of tomatoes, onions, sweet/bell peppers (or if you want it spicy, use a jalapeño) spiced with paprika, garlic, and sugar.  After the sauce cooks down a little, crack and egg or two in the sauce and transfer to the oven (or cover) until the egg cooks to your desired firmness.  My Israeli friends say that their Shakshukah at home tends to be made out of whatever is left in the fridge.  So feel free to experiment. 

For those of you who prefer to use a recipe, here is a good Shakshukah base that you can alter if you want it sweet (add a little sugar) or spicy (add some jalapeño or red pepper flakes). 


·         2 pounds fresh tomatoes - unpeeled and roughly diced
·         1 bell pepper, seeded and diced
·         1 small yellow onion
·         6 large eggs
·         1/4 cup vegetable oil
·         4 garlic cloves - diced finely
·         2 teaspoons tomato paste
·         2 teaspoons salt
·         1 teaspoon sweet paprika

In a large skillet, mix together the tomatoes, onion, pepper, oil, garlic, tomato paste, salt and parika. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook - uncovered - over low heat for 30 minutes until thick - stirring occsionally.  Once thickened, increase the heat to medium.  Break the eggs into the tomato mixture.  Cook covered 3 to 4 more minutes until the eggs have completely set.  Serve with bread or pita.