Shake up breakfast with healthy shakshuka
Besides being fun to say, shakshuka is a healthful, easy egg dish that adds Mediterranean flavor to brunch or breakfast.
Made with tomatoes, seasonings and poached eggs, shakshuka is popular in the Middle East and North Africa. In spite of Metro Detroit’s connection to that area of the world, however, it’s rare to find shakshuka on a brunch menu around here, but that may be changing.
Chef Benji Benoliel is literally driving shakshuka around town in his Israeli street food truck, TruckShuka. While his signature dish is shakshuka made with fire-roasted bell peppers, garlic and jalapenos, he also makes a green version with mushrooms, leeks, kale and spinach instead of tomatoes. Both are gluten-free and can be served with crumbled goat cheese on top and toasty pita bread on the side.
Benoliel says shakshuka is very popular in Israel.
“It’s basically everything left in the refrigerator on Sunday ... you just make a meal out of it,” he said, adding that only about 20 percent of the people who visit his food truck are familiar with shakshuka and can pronounce it correctly.
“No one really knows what it is around here,” he said. “shakshuka is pretty awesome. It’s vegetarian, you can make it vegan if you want, it’s spice-full.”
He’s often parked near Campus Martius in downtown Detroit during lunchtime, and next week he’ll be posted at the Spirit of Detroit Plaza.
Benoliel says he takes time and lets his tomato-based shakshuka simmer for a while, giving it about 45 minutes total cooking time, but his green version is much quicker. He makes both on his truck, along with shawarma, hummus and sabich, an eggplant sandwich found in Israel.
Benoliel was working in real estate in New York when he met his wife, a Metro Detroit native. Benoliel said in New York they would host parties and loved to entertain, and people loved his food. When they moved back to her hometown, Benoliel decided to put real estate on the shelf and try his hand at selling street food from his native Israel.
He says he chose to focus on shakshuka because it’s healthier than falafel, which is fried, and we seemed to already have enough shawarma around here.
For a more formal setting to try shakshuka, you’ll find a poached egg dish on the brunch menu at Tria, the restaurant at The Henry Hotel in Dearborn. Executive chef Tim Enfield said they started serving it about three years ago.
“We’re always trying to do really eclectic things and since our base is basically travelers,” he said. “I know shakshuka isn’t big here in Detroit, but a lot of our menu, if you ever look at it, (you’ll see) we have a lot of eclectic things from different parts of the world.”
Now that shakshuka, which they serve with a triangle of feta pita, is on the menu, Enfield said customers are becoming attached.
“We can’t take it off, either,” Enfield said. “In the beginning people were kind of unfamiliar with it.”
He said some travelers knew what it was, and eventually it caught on with their local customers and even became a popular item for guests ordering room service.
At Cafe Zola and Zola Bistro in Ann Arbor, the shakshuka is made with sauteed peppers and onions, cumin, herbs and baked with French feta and Kalamata olives.
To make it at home, Benoliel suggest sauteing using olive oil and adding what you prefer to eat, like maybe onions or green peppers. Or, like he said, see what’s left in the fridge when brunch time rolls around.
The Star Tribune contributed.
From Benji Benoliel
1 cup mushrooms
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup leek
1/4 cup of water
1 1/2 cups spinach
1 1/2 cups kale
Saute mushrooms in a pan with olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper for 3-4 minutes on medium heat until the mushrooms are soft. Add the leek and water, then add the kale and spinach. Break four eggs into the pan, not too close to each other, cover and cook on medium for 3-4 minute, or 6-8 minutes if you prefer your eggs more well-done. “Pinch salt and pepper on top, add goat cheese, toast pita bread on the gas flame and bon appetit,” said Benolei.
Adapted from “Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking,” by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook.
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1 onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cup)
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded and chopped into 1/4-inch dice
3 garlic cloves, sliced
3 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups crushed tomatoes
2 teaspoon sugar
Serrano chilies, thinly sliced
Freshly chopped cilantro, for garnish
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onions, bell peppers, garlic, paprika, cumin, coriander and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened, but not browned, about 10 minutes.
Add crushed tomatoes and sugar and simmer until reduced by about one-third, 10 to 12 minutes. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil.
Crack the eggs in the skillet, spacing them evenly in the sauce. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until the egg whites are set but the yolks remain runny, about 5 minutes. Top with serrano chiles and cilantro and serve immediately, right from the pan.