(Eggs in Purgatory, Tunisian Style)
Two 28-oz. cans good-quality diced tomatoes (e.g., Muir Glen brand)*
9 ripe Roma tomatoes *
16 large cloves garlic (or to taste)**
1/2 cup olive oil
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
Red pepper flakes** to taste; ideally, Aleppo red pepper flakes***, if available
1. Drain canned tomatoes well, but keep the juice; then chop into 1/3-inch pieces. Core Romas; chop into 1/2-3/4-inch cubes. Peel garlic and trim off root nubs; mince finely or put through a garlic press.
2. In a heavy, wide skillet, heat olive oil on high heat, then add all tomatoes—canned and fresh—with the retained tomato juice. Cook until mixture is bubbling hot and raw tomatoes are limp and cooked through, stirring often. Add garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes; cook on medium-low just until flavors blend and garlic is cooked—5-10 minutes. Taste and correct seasonings during this time, adding red pepper flakes gradually and tasting as heat develops.
3. Make small depressions in the tomato stew and drop a raw egg into each. Cover skillet and cook until egg whites are set—about 5 minutes. Serves best in a shallow soup/pasta bowl. Accompany with warmed pita or sturdy, European-style bread for scooping up sauce.
*In season, use all fresh tomatoes, no canned, for authentic shakshuka. 6 lbs. ripe Romas, (about 35 medium-large) should do the trick. The above recipe is adapted to the long off-season, when fresh tomatoes are less flavorful than good-quality canned. A few fresh Romas are added for texture. Use canned tomatoes only, no fresh ones, if time is short or fresh tomatoes are awful.
** Garlic and red pepper are typical of Tunisian shakshuka. Decreasing or eliminating both from part of a batch to suit children’s tastes is still tasty, like Italian Eggs in Purgatory.
***Aleppo red pepper flakes are available in most Middle Eastern markets, including the Middle Eastern aisle at Plaza Latina market on 7th Avenue in Eugene. Better quality Aleppo flakes are available by mail order from Kalustyan’s, 123 Lexington Avenue, New York 10016; Tel:212-685-3451; e-mail:email@example.com. Using Aleppo flakes—less hot than regular chili flakes and roasted for some sweetness—an average quantity is 2 1/2-3 tablespoons.