Chakchouka is a fried pepper and vegetable dish that is as commonly served in Tunisian kitchens as are hot dogs at American ball parks. Chakchouka is an incredibly flavorful dish that emerged from a country that is a bustling crossroad of French, Italian and Arab cultures. Since Italy is just a hop across the picturesque Mediterranean, many Tunisian dishes have been influenced by Italian culinary traditions. Not only do both countries share the same passion for fresh ingredients and lively tomato based dishes, but both also view food as a hub that strengthens bonds between gathering friends and families. Chakchouka is one of my favorite things to eat in Tunisia because it can be eaten at any time of the day and the spices always enhance the inherent flavors of the fresh veggies. My father’s recipe puts a nice twist on the traditional version by adding potatoes – making this the perfect entrée for an easy Sunday brunch.
- 1 red and 1 green bell pepper (cut into thin slices, about 2 inch long pieces)
- 1 medium size yellow onion (chopped or finely sliced)
- 1 medium size potato (skinned and diced into about 1/2 inch pieces)
- 2 fresh tomatoes (seeded, diced into 1 inch pieces)
- 1 medium size zucchini (1/4 inch thick half circles)
- 4-6 large eggs
- 2 gloves of garlic (1 finely diced, 1 quartered)
- 4 oz. of plain tomato sauce
- 1 Tsp. ground coriander
- 1/2 Tsp. ground caraway seeds
- 1 Tbl. chopped cilantro
- 1 Tbl. chopped Italian parsley
- 1 Tbl. chopped green onion
- olive oil
- In a medium size skillet over medium heat, lightly fry potatoes in about 3 tablespoons of olive oil until slightly browned and almost tender. Salt lightly then set aside.
- Repeat step 1 with the zucchini. Cook until they are still slightly firm but nearly edible. They will be cooked more later, so be careful to not overcook.
- Preferably in a cast-iron skillet, heat 2 tbl. of olive oil. Sauté the onions on medium-high heat for about 4 min or until translucent.
- Add the bell peppers to the onions. Salt and pepper to taste, then add the cilantro.
- Cook the mixture for 1-2 more minutes then add all of the garlic, coriander and caraway, mix well.
- Add the tomato sauce to the mixture and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover and simmer on low for about 15-20 minutes – stir on occasion until the sauce has thickened.
- Once the mixture has thickened, distribute the potatoes and zucchini evenly on top and push them gently into the mixture.
- Simmer uncovered for 3 more minutes on medium-low heat.
- With the back of a large spoon, make depressions for the eggs on top of the Chakchouka (creating a “nest” for the eggs so they are contained and do not run all over the top).
- Carefully crack the eggs into the nests. Salt and pepper them, then top the dish with chopped Italian parsley and green onions.
- Broil the entire skillet in the oven for about 3-5 minutes or until eggs are set and no longer translucent – make sure the yolk is still soft and runny.
Serve right away and enjoy. The secret is to not overcook the Chakchouka, and as my grandmother, Meherzia, used to say, “You must eat it live!”