By Paul Suplee,
MBA, CEC, PC-3
I knew I should not have answered the phone, but something told me to. It was almost as though I could tell what I needed in my life, and my premonition was correct.
My car’s extended warranty was in fact about to expire, and I certainly was in the market for another one.
As I sat there listening to the prerecorded message of the dutiful saleswoman lecturing me about the nuances of these fine products, I laughed and looked at my daughter. She could tell by the look on my face that I had been taken. I hung up the phone and we returned to our conversation over our bowls of Shakshuka.
In a lovely café in Boston, we sit and sip our piping hot coffee and drink copious amounts of water that never seem to be getting topped off by our inattentive waiter. Regardless, our breakfasts are divine. Simple in nature and execution, they are reminiscent of the last time we were together in Boston at the end of January.
Despite having empty water glasses for most of our meal, we will be sure to sup here again upon my next return to visit my daughters in this fine city. To be honest with you, I had never eaten Shakshuka before a few months ago, and it is hands down one of my favorite breakfast dishes.
A tomato-based soupy concoction with poached eggs and sausage? With some fried cheese curds sometimes?
Yes, count me in! Especially considering that tomato season is right around the corner, and it is easy to see that we could make Shakshuka in large batches and can it, having it at the ready for early-morning repasts. Yes, it is going to be an epic summer.
Luckily, I am dating someone who has a much greener thumb than I, and there will be tomatoes galore of many, many varietals.
Heirloom grape tomatoes, beefsteaks, chocolates, you name it. She will grow and grow and grow and we will eat many things made from these delectable fruits.
With the majority of the cold snaps hopefully out of the way, it will be time for the garden bed to get tilled and fertilizer added to nourish the soil. The entire process is humbling to watch as I have not had a successful vegetable and fruit garden of my own since our old house in Baltimore, well over 20 years ago. At that house, located snugly on a quarter-acre lot, we had tomatoes, long beans, horseradish, mint, potatoes, carrots, scallions, chives, a few onions here and there and berries of many kinds.
The strawberries took a couple years to build up to a successful yield, but it was fun to watch the babies sitting outside in the summertime picking their own berries and shoving them down their gullet, their faces plastered with red-berry paint.
The halcyon days of young parenthood are long gone, and now my children are mostly adults. That is rather terrifying to think about the process of aging, but it won’t be long (maybe a decade or so) before I get to grow some berries for grandkids. We shall see. I am certainly in no hurry, and I’m fairly certain that my children are not either.
In my yard, there are so many trees that it has been difficult to have a blooming tomato patch. I tried for a couple years, but I am throwing in the towel, converting my under-sunned raised bed into a canoe and paddleboard rack. That seems to be a much better use for this plot of useless and shaded land.
I will have to raid my girlfriend’s garden when she’s not looking. She’ll have plenty of tomatoes, so I don’t think she’ll mind. And if she does, I’ll buy her an extended car warranty to make up for it.
1/2 ea. Yellow onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 ea. Red bell pepper, julienne
3 c. Peeled fresh tomatoes
1 c. Chicken stock
1/2 tsp. Cayenne pepper
1tsp. Smoked Spanish paprika
8 whole eggs, cracked into a bowl and ready to go (yolks not broken)
1 c. Fresh broadleaf parsley, chiffonade
1/2 c. High quality sour cream or crème fraiche
8 links of spicy sausage (merguez or chorizo would suffice)
1. Heat some olive oil and whole butter in a frypan.
2. Add onion and cook for about 4 minutes or until they become slightly browned.
3. Add red bell pepper and garlic and cook for three minutes, making sure that the garlic does not burn. Once it burns, it becomes bitter.
4. Add the tomatoes and chicken stock and cook until all of the flavors have had a chance to marry.
5. Season with the cayenne and paprika and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
6. This is now complete and you can keep it chilled in the refrigerator for future use or bang it out now.
7. When ready to serve, merely heat the tomato ‘soup’ and poach the eggs until the whites are cooked and the yolks are nice and runny.
8. Add some grilled or seared sausages and serve with some sour cream and you are ready to go! This dish has so much flavor, and with the kick from the cayenne, it’s even better than a cup of coffee to get your day going.
—Paul Suplee is a Professor of Culinary Arts at Wor-Wic Community College
and owner of boxcar40. Visit him at www.boxcar40.com.