Chickpea Shakshuka with Red Peppers + Goat Cheese
Being a little bit of a perfectionist, I am someone who would like to imagine that I can do everything at once. Balance multiple plates on each finger and keep them smoothly spinning through space, no matter what is happening around me. However, there are times when things get knocked out of their natural equilibrium- one plate taking on more weight than the others- and you either decide to gracefully set the rest in the cupboard for the time being, or you wind up panicking as they start to come crashing down around you.
I came to that tipping point about a week ago, realizing it was time to carefully set down a couple plates as the performance plate grew larger and heavier. I would desperately like to avoid a crash. Our premiere date for Marked Territory is right around the corner and therefore all of the preparation and rehearsal is starting to consume most of my time and brain-space. This can begin to be an overwhelming feeling, but I gently reminded myself that it is just temporary. When deadlines are fast approaching, it is completely natural that your priorities will have to momentarily rearrange themselves, with that looming thing taking complete precedent. For me lately, this means less focus on writing, blogging, and existing in an online space (with this post being an exception), stashing my notebooks filled with ideas for other projects on bookshelves to pull out at a later date, and having to say no a little bit more frequently to outings with friends. But again, all temporary.
There are certain things, of course, that cannot be set aside, like regular working hours (my classes), other smaller tasks and deadlines that are unrelated but cannot wait (overseas voting!), and I would argue that finding small moments to care for yourself is also something that should never be completely let go (power naps, a long hot shower, good talks with your partner/parent/best friend, etc.). A certain amount of healthy balance is always required, no matter what phase of work and life we are in at the moment.
For the next week, at least, you’ll find me here just trying to keep that huge, weighty plate spinning until Saturday night.
One of the things that also gets gently laid aside during busy periods like this one is the attempt to make intricately creative and elaborate dishes. While eating a good, hearty meal is imperative, of course, now is not the time to experiment with new ingredients and techniques. It is the time to fall back on tried and true comforts that are simple to whip up and filling and energizing for a dancing body. Hello, shakshuka, my old friend.
I started making shakshuka several years ago before I even knew what it was called, and have recently been making it probably once every other week, at least. Eggs poached in a rich, spiced tomato sauce- a simple and beautiful concept for a meal that can be made with endless ingredients and variations. Shakshuka translates roughly to “a mixture” in Arabic, indicating a dish that mixes everything in one. This particular variation that I’ve created, with sweet red peppers, extra chickpeas for protein, creamy goat cheese, and a pop of fresh herbs, is my absolute favorite. I suppose shakshuka might be seen in some places as more of a breakfast/brunch sort of dish, but I love making it for a weekend lunch or weeknight dinner. It is a great one-pot meal to share, is healthy(ish) but rich, and comes together in roughly 30 minutes. Basically, it is the ideal fare for two tired dancers.
Some Recipe Notes
We love to make this in a tagine and eat it straight from the dish (yay for sharing and less clean up). If you have one, I highly recommend using it, but a good skillet will also do the trick.
If you are vegan, while it won’t be exactly shakshuka, I have made this same meal without the eggs and goat cheese and it is absolutely delicious. If you’re dairy-free you can simply replace the goat cheese with a non-dairy alternative or leave it off. Something for everyone!
Chickpea Shakshuka with Red Peppers + Goat Cheese
Makes roughly 3 servings, gluten-free
500g (roughly 3 large fresh, or you can used canned) tomatoes, diced
1 large red pepper, sliced long + thin
1 medium onion (red or white), diced
3 minced cloves garlic
1 cup (200g) cooked chickpeas
1 tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground ginger
Salt & pepper to taste (generously)
3-4 large eggs
Fresh goat cheese (roughly 60g or so)
Chopped fresh herbs to top (parsley, cilantro, basil, etc.)
Heat your olive oil in either a large skillet or tagine over a medium flame. Once hot, add the onions, garlic and red peppers, sautéing until fragrant and the onions are translucent. Add the tomato paste, spices, salt and pepper and stir to toast them all a bit for just a minute, then add the diced tomatoes and chickpeas. Mix well, cover, and bring the heat down to simmer.
Let the sauce cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes. The tomatoes should release enough water to keep it bubbling, but if you notice it starting to stick, you can add several tablespoons of water. After 15 minutes, add the chopped herbs and cook for another 5 minutes or so. Once is has started to become nice and saucy, use a spoon to make 3 or 4 little indents in the cooked sauce, then carefully crack a whole egg into each one. Crumble the goat cheese evenly on top of the whole dish, then cover to poach the eggs. Cook for about 5-8 minutes or until the whites are cooked through and the yokes still jiggle a bit in the middle.
Remove from heat, sprinkle extra chopped herbs on top, and enjoy immediately with a hunk of fresh bread.