The more I venture into the world of food and the food of the world, the more I notice patterns and themes. Take eggs and tomatoes, for example. There is no end in sight for finding delicious variations on the theme of eggs and tomatoes in all cultures – though you won’t see me complaining.
As a child I hated tomatoes. They were tasteless and icky when raw and tasteless and icky cooked. Its skin was rubbery and hard to chew, and can’t even be considered digestible fibre to redeem itself. But that was in the old world – in Hong Kong in the 80’s where tomatoes came from a boat as a shadow of what they could be, their weak pale faces never knowing the warm kiss of the sun.
In the new world – my home in an aged suburban Toronto, I slowly grew to know and like tomatoes in all their forms, vine ripened from the back yard. My favourite being the cherry tomato, perfectly fitting between my fingers like the perfect marble before I twisted it off the stalk and promptly popped it in my mouth.
Tomatoes are a fruit of the new world not only to me. In fact, tomatoes are native to South America, which, to the Europeans, was the new world. Sadly, the free availability of such produce today around the world was the fruit of hundreds of years of bloodshed and colonization. In the case of tomatoes, the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire. But let us not get down this road for now and simply thank the Aztecs for cultivating such a versatile and delicious fruit for all to enjoy.
One take on the egg and tomato theme that I enjoy immensely is Shakshuka – eggs poached in spiced tomato sauce. Many argue the origin of this amazingly delicious dish, but the general area at least is agreed to be North Africa. I first heard of this dish from my go-to resource, Smitten Kitchen. The SK recipe for shakshuka was nice, but it wasn’t Nice. It was a lazy Monday meal, not a tell-all-your-friends-to-come-over-for-brunch kind of meal. But Deb does go into the history of this dish and her photographs always trigger salivation, so it’s definitely worth a read.
And then recently, I’ve been following David Lebovitz’s recent trip to Israel and lo and behold – I instantly recognized that the first picture on Israeli breakfast was the very same dish! Shakshuka! I tried the recipe linked from his blog for a brunch on Saturday with friends and it was a winner. It used whole spices, less heat (no chiles), and real tomatoes, naturally more effort but well worth it. It was so good we made it again on Sunday. I do have to say, David Lebovitz is now sharing a space with Smitten Kitchen in my web browser shortcuts on both my computer and my mobile.
Note: in the recipe linked from David Lebovitz’s blog, I swapped the onion with fresh zucchinis from the market.
[No photo included in this post because others (linked) did it a thousand times better than I could manage with my phone]