Although we didn’t get a white Christmas while visiting Portland, we had an unexpected white New Years in Los Angeles. On the first day of January, we traveled above the city where everything is peaceful and quiet and the air is clean and smells like fresh pine. We are so lucky to be just thirty minutes from The Angeles National Forest with gorgeous mountains and countless places to explore, stretching over 1000 square miles of uninhabited land. We found ourselves strolling through icy trails lined with beautiful manzanitas and majestic oaks still dusted with snow from last week’s brief rains. The hike began at 4500 feet, and while we were expecting chilly temperatures, we had no idea that we would be walking in snow! But the sun was out, it was a beautiful day, and we enjoyed peanut butter and honey sandwiches sitting on a boulder on the side of the trail while soaking in the sun’s rays. After a brief drive back into civilization, we came home to put the final touches on an original new recipe, a warm and comforting skillet of tender cauliflower, sautéed leeks, diced tomatoes, bright red chard, and poached eggs nestled between the vegetables, which is topped with deeply toasted pine nuts and a dollop of lime-infused Greek yogurt: say hello to winter shakshuka.
Shakshuka is a flavorful Tunisian dish which usually consists of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, peppers, and herbs. Here we selected some of our favorite seasonal winter vegetables, and sauté them with cumin and a serrano pepper for a little heat. While the leeks, swiss chard, and cauliflower florets cook, pine nuts are toasted in a skillet until bronzed and intensely aromatic, adding an earthy flavor and a slight crunch that perfectly contrasts with the tender cauliflower. Once the vegetables are ready, the eggs are delicately poached in the simmering sauce, resulting in fully cooked whites and slightly runny yolks, ideal for dipping slices of warm crusty baguette. And the final touch is a tangy lime-yogurt sauce that takes literally 30 seconds to make: the cool creaminess complements the spicy sautéed vegetables, and the combination is an irresistible yin-yang balance of opposing flavors.
This comforting Mediterranean dish is easy to make. Once all the vegetables are chopped and the pine nuts are toasted, everything cooks together in one large skillet. If your pan doesn’t have a lid, that is not a problem since you can cover it tightly with foil instead. And while shakshuka is traditionally served for breakfast, it can also be enjoyed as a colorful midweek dinner or a festive weekend brunch. This satisfying meal filled with hearty winter vegetables is perfect for this time of year—warm and filling, with just the right amount of spice—and is delicious on a chilly morning, at the end of a blustery day, or after a beautiful snow-filled hike through the mountains.
For the shakshuka:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 head of cauliflower (about 1 pound), center stem removed, florets cut into bite-sized pieces
1 leek, leaves removed, halved lengthwise and sliced thinly (see note)
1 large bunch (about 12 ounces) red swiss chard, leaves roughly chopped, stems sliced
1 serrano pepper, halved lengthwise and sliced
28 ounces canned diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
6 large eggs
1/4 cup pine nuts
For the lime Greek yogurt:
7 ounces (about 3/4 cup) plain greek yogurt
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
Place the olive oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the leeks, cauliflower, swiss chard stems (you will add the leaves later), and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and sauté for 4 minutes. Add the serrano pepper and cook for another 5 minutes until the cauliflower is al dente. Add the tomatoes, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt, black pepper, and cumin, and bring to a simmer. When simmering, scatter the chard leaves over the top of the mixture, then cover, turn heat to medium-low, and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove lid, toss to combine, then cover again for 2 minutes. Stir again to combine, and check to see if the chard is tender and wilted. If it is not, cover for another 2 minutes. When the chard is tender, make 6 indentations in the vegetables evenly spaced around the pan, and crack an egg into each one. Cover, turn heat to low, and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes until whites are set and yolks are a little runny.
While eggs are cooking, make the lime Greek yogurt and toast the pine nuts. Combine the yogurt, lime juice, and salt in a bowl. Whisk until smooth and creamy, then set aside. In a small dry skillet over medium heat, cook the pine nuts, stirring often, until they are deeply toasted and fragrant, about 5 minutes.
When eggs are ready, serve shakshuka topped with a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts and lime yogurt on the side. Enjoy!
— Leeks are different from most vegetables, since you wash them after cutting, not before. Because sand and grit can get deep within its thin layers, it is best to slice up the leek, then place the slices in a colander to rinse them off.
— This is delicious with a sliced baguette, especially if the slices are toasted! To toast them, preheat the oven to 400°F, and spread slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush one or both sides of the slices with olive oil, and bake for 10 minutes.
— The eggs are poached for 10 minutes, which on our stove on low heat results in a fully cooked white and a slightly runny yolk. If you would like your eggs cooked more or less, adjust the cooking time to your liking.