My twins turned twenty-one this week. It’s been an amazing journey guiding them to adulthood. As a single mother, I often thought the day would never come. When we lost their dad to cancer years ago, I wasn’t sure how we’d ever get this far. And yet, they’re still alive and doing quite well despite some overwhelming obstacles.
Editor’s Note: Three writers here at the Greylock Glass seemed to be psychically connected this week. Both Robin Catalano and Sara Farrell Okamura journeyed to Chatham for their stories, and it kind of creeps me out that Robin featured Shakshouka in her piece with no way to know that Kasey would be doing an entire column on it. Freaky, right? — JV
I wanted to do something special for this milestone birthday. Since my house is undergoing several renovation projects, having their friends over wasn’t in the cards. I decided the special occasion deserved two special meals; one for the three of us and one they could share with friends. On the eve of their birthday, I made them sole with a seafood stuffing topped with Newburg sauce. For sides, I steamed some asparagus and made Hasselback potatoes. We shared a delicious meal and they opened cards and gifts. It was a thoroughly lovely evening.
Catering a meal for their friends, however, proved a bit more complicated. Feeding college-age kids these days means dealing with a lot of dietary restrictions. Several of the twin’s friends are vegetarians and several others are vegans. Since I was feeding a crowd, I also had to think about dishes that could be stretched on a budget.
I opted to make eggplant parmesan for the vegetarian main dish. For the vegan dish, I customized a recipe for White Bean Shakshouka. If you’ve never had Shakshouka you really need to add it to your culinary repertoire. This is a dish that checks a lot of boxes. It’s got tons of vegetables in it, but it’s extremely hardy. It’s relatively inexpensive to make because there’s no meat. It is also something you can customize to taste making it hot or mild or anywhere in-between.
This is a Middle Eastern dish of unknown origins. Some food historians believe the dish spread to Spain and the greater Middle East from Ottoman Turkey. Others think it originated in Morocco or Yemen. I’m not sure if it matters. It’s a great, cheap meal to feed a bunch of hungry college kids.
When I make this for the family, I prepare it in a skillet with poached eggs on top. The variety of spices makes it wildly flavorful with an undercurrent of heat. For my twins birthday celebration, I made a triple batch in a large pot since I was feeding a crowd. I also opted to leave off the eggs and served the feta cheese crumbled on the side. Below is the recipe that serves 4 – 6. I hope you enjoy it as much as they did!
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 clove of minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- Pinch of cayenne pepper or more to taste
- Pinch of sugar optional, to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- *1 red bell pepper 6 oz, thinly sliced
- 1 large yellow onion 10 oz, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon sea salt plus more for sprinkling
- One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
- One 15-ounce can Canneloni white beans, drained and rinsed
- 4 to 6 large eggs
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley or cilantro leaves
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- Add the olive oil to a large skillet (preferably cast iron.)
- Wilt the onion and pepper over medium heat, about four minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
- Add the remaining spices and cook an additional two minutes to release the flavor.
- Add the canned diced tomatoes with their juices.
- Simmer for five minutes and then stir in the white beans.
- Return to a simmer and then reduce the heat until the mixture thickens, 5 to 10 minutes.
- Create a little indentation in the tomato mixture for each of the eggs. I crack mine separately to make sure there are no shells before adding them one at a time to the small indentation.
- Add a bit of salt and black pepper to each egg.
- Cover the skillet with a lid so the eggs can poach. (Any kind of cover will do in a pinch).
- Cook over low heat until the eggs are prepared to your liking. This can take anywhere from 5 to 7 minutes.
- Gently spoon some of the sauce over the yolk if you like the eggs firmer.
- Sprinkle with feta. Serve immediately from the skillet.