Melting pot of cultures fragrant, spicy flavors

Israeli cuisine is a mix of the seasonings and ingredients from Middle Eastern, Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Yemen-ite, Moroccan and many other cultures united by an emphasis on fresh vegetables and herbs that make even the simplest dishes taste full of flavor.

Perhaps no other dish exemplifies this better than shakshouka (said to mean crazy, all mixed up). This egg dish began as an Ottoman stew. It migrated across Arab lands, was transformed by the foods of the New World and became popular in northwest Africa. Immigrants brought this light entrée to Israel, where it is popular for breakfast, brunch or even supper. Serve it with fresh pita bread.


Shakshouka

Serves 4-6

2 Tbs. olive oil

11⁄2 cups chopped onion

4 garlic cloves, minced

3 cups red and/or green bell peppers, cut into 1⁄4-inch-thin slices

1 tsp. paprika

1⁄2 tsp. salt

1⁄2 tsp. ground black pepper

1⁄4 tsp. dried ground oregano

2 cups tomatoes, cut into

    1⁄2-inch cubes

6 eggs

1⁄4 cup minced fresh parsley and or mint

Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, sauté 3 minutes. Add garlic, sauté a minute. Add bell peppers, paprika, salt, black pepper and oregano. Sauté for 7 minutes. Add tomatoes and sauté for 10 minutes.

Smooth top of stew, using a spoon to make six indentations. Break an egg into each indent. Lower heat to medium-low and cover pan. Cook eggs 3 to 4 minutes. Remove lid, sprinkle with fresh herbs. Serve directly from pan. If desired, serve with Greek yogurt and fresh salsa, z’hug or harissa.


Time-Shifting Pita

Makes 10 breads

Make the dough up to two days ahead. These are thicker and tangier than supermarket pitas. Thanks to Rose Levy Beranbaum’s “The Bread Bible” for the inspiration on how to time-shift my recipe.

1 package (21⁄2 tsp.) yeast

11⁄3 cups of 110-degree water

1 tsp. sugar

4 cups  flour, plus extra

2 tsp. salt

2 Tbs. vegetable oil, plus extra

Mix yeast, water and sugar and set aside for 5 minutes until foamy. Mix flour and salt in large bowl. Add yeast mixture and oil. Combine. Knead in bowl until a rough dough forms. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface (or in a mixer with dough hook) for 10 minutes, adding flour or water as needed to keep dough pliable and smooth.

Oil 3-quart bowl or other container. Press dough into bottom. Oil top of dough. Cover container with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours or up to two days. (Dough should double in size.) One hour before baking, turn oven on to 500 degrees and place a baking sheet on a rack at the lowest point in the oven. Place a second rack as high as possible. A half hour before baking, place a pan with 1 inch of water on the top rack of the oven.

Remove dough from refrigerator, roll into 10 balls and flatten into disks. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rest 20 minutes. Roll disks into rounds just less than 1⁄4-inch thick. Let rest 10 minutes. Place rounds 2 to 3 at a time on hot baking sheet. Bake for about 4 minutes until puffed but not browned. Remove from oven, cover with towel. Let oven reheat a few minutes. Repeat.

Faith Kramer is a Bay area food writer. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. She blogs her food at www.clickblogappetit.blogspot.com. Contact her at clickblogappetit@gmail.com.

Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. She blogs about her food at clickblogappetit.com. Contact Faith at clickblogappetit@gmail.com.