Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends. That's the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.
When I first moved to New York, my roommate and I were always looking for new and unusual dinner ideas that we could make in our small apartment kitchen. Coming from an Israeli family, she once suggested shakshuka, a Middle Eastern tomato-based dish, topped with eggs and laden with flavorful spices.
I tried it once and never looked back.
Shakshuka is my idea of a perfect weeknight meal, although it could just as easily be served for weekend brunch. The ingredients are inexpensive, it doesn’t require any preparation that must be done hours beforehand and it’s relatively healthy. You can concoct it in a single pan, making cleanup minimal. Oh, and did I mention that it’s flavorful, hearty and delicious?
The flexibility of the dish makes it ideal for year-round consumption. In the winter, I’ve made it with thinly sliced potatoes and Swiss chard. For a summer preparation, I challenged myself to find as many ingredients as possible at my local farmers market. And so this recipe with summer squash, onion, cilantro and goat cheese was born.
Because all the ingredients are mixed in one vessel, choose a pan with appreciable depth, so you can combine the vegetables, spices, tomatoes, eggs and cheese without the mixture spilling over the sides.
If you experiment with different vegetables, be sure to adjust the cooking time. I like my squash slightly al dente, so I waited until the onions were almost finished cooking before adding it to the pan. But if I were working with bell peppers, for example, I would have added them at the outset.
The spices, tomatoes and eggs make up the backbone of the dish, but adjustments can be made here as well. Increase the cayenne pepper for a spicier kick or add fresh tomatoes to complement the rich juices of their canned counterparts. The cheese could easily be left out, but the goat cheese provided a creamy contrast to the acidic tomatoes, so I’d recommend including some form of dairy. Feta or a side of Greek yogurt could also be scrumptious.
For a wine pairing, I wanted something summery and refreshing to keep in theme with my meal. Tomatoes, due to their sweetness and acidity, are notoriously tricky to pair with wine, and the bold spices proved an additional challenge.
I started with my go-to summer drink, rosé. The Cabernet Franc–based pink wine I chose was bright and fruity, with good acidity. With the shakshuka, it complemented the herbaceous cilantro, but was otherwise overpowered by the vivid Middle Eastern flavors.
I then turned to a juicy, fruity Beaujolais in the hopes that it could withstand the cumin, paprika and cayenne. Notes of spice and smokiness in the wine proved my instincts correct, but the pairing still didn’t have the breezy, summer quality I was seeking.
Finally, I tried a traditional pairing for tomato-based dishes—a dry Lambrusco. This wine also had its fair share of smoke, along with dried fruit and mouthwatering acidity to rival the high-acid tomatoes. Served chilled, the lightly fizzy red won me over as the perfect summertime match for my favorite year-round meal.
Pair with a fizzy Italian Lambrusco, such as Lini Oreste & Figli Lambrusco Emilia In Correggio 910 Scuro NV (87 points, $18)
Total time: 55 minutes
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Approximate food cost: $20
1. Preheat oven to 375˚ F.
2. Heat 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat in a large cast-iron pan. Add sliced onions and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add diced squash and cook for 5 more minutes, or until onions are translucent and squash has begun to soften.
3. Add diced garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring to be sure that garlic does not burn.
4. Add cumin, paprika and cayenne to the pan and mix ingredients to coat evenly.
5. Add tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper. Stir mixture and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.
6. Stir a heaping tablespoon of goat cheese into the pan. Crack 4 to 6 eggs (depending on the size of the pan you are using) on top of the mixture.
7. Carefully move the pan to the oven and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how runny you prefer your egg yolks.
8. Remove from oven. Garnish with crumbled goat cheese and cilantro. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with crusty bread, toasted pita or even regular toast for brunch. Serves 4.