excuses, and shakshuka

I had a friend in town from California this week, and so I didn’t get a chance to make new recipes. I did crowd-pleasers: sweet potato wedges, last week’s black bean tacos, cornbread and breakfast foods… and this standby, which is too good not to share with the entire world.

Because, not to put too fine a point on it, this recipe is the best. It is the ideal recipe to make if, for example, a mixed crowd of vegetarian Israelis and Egyptians shows up on your doorstep, home from a night on the town and are too jet-lagged to be sure if they’re eating breakfast or dinner. (What? This doesn’t happen to you all the time?)

It’s the ideal hearty weekend breakfast, quick working-from-home lunch or superfast dinner. It can be made from pantry ingredients in less than 10 minutes for less than $2 per serving. It has protein and a healthy vegetable. If you eat it before going out, the eggs will ward off your hangover; if you eat it the next day, they’ll help fight it. (It’s science!)

Oh, and it uses only one pan.

Sold yet?

Eggs Poached in Tomato Sauce (Shakshuka)

This recipe is known as shakshuka in Israel and, according to some Internet sources, Egypt. I’m not going to give one country patrimony and end up in a food-related Middle East conflict, so I think we can all agree it’s excellent and we can all just get along and share. Right? Camp David, here I come.

Oh, and if you don’t own any smoked paprika, for the love of God, buy some already. There is no substitute for its warm and smoky flavor, and I have a feeling it’ll be popping up in a lot of my recipes this year. Here, buy it from Penzey’s, my favorite company with a website stuck in 1995.

Serves 1, but not rocket science to increase the quantities for more.

1 tablespoon olive oil + more for drizzling

2 eggs

1 cup jarred marinara sauce (I use — surprise! — Trader Joe’s.)

½ teaspoon smoked paprika

1 bunch spinach, washed and de-stemmed but not dried

2 slices bread (country white, sourdough or multigrain are all good)

Shredded parmigiano cheese (optional)

Heat a medium-sized nonstick skillet over medium heat. Drop the washed but still wet spinach in and cook, stirring, until it wilts, about 2 minutes. Remove the spinach from the pan and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in the pan over medium heat. Pour in the marinara sauce. Add the smoked paprika and bring to a simmer, stirring (it will bubble around the edges but be cold in the center if you don’t stir). When simmering, reduce the heat to medium-low. Crack the eggs into the marinara sauce, keeping a good distance between them. Cover the pan, turn the heat to low, and let sit for 4 minutes.

At the same time, put the bread in the toaster. When the 4 minutes are up, check to make sure the egg is poached; if not, continue poaching in 20-second increments.

To serve, drizzle the bread with olive oil and put the spinach on top. Slide the marinara sauce and egg onto that. Salt and pepper to taste, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese if desired.

Extra credit: Wash the one pan.

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