Shakshuka with Avocado, Labneh, and Za’atar
Shakshuka, the Middle Eastern dish of eggs poached in tomatoes, is traditionally spicy with harissa (hot red pepper paste). Many recipes add vegetables to the initial onion saute, like red bell pepper or eggplant. My shakshuka is finished with avocado, labneh and za’atar. We eat shakshuka for dinner but it’s a great breakfast too!
We like to tease my mom about the schedule she kept for meals with my dad back in the day. He was an early guy; he woke up very early, spent his day practicing law and community service pursuits, and counted on dinner at home with the family at 5:00 p.m. Very few exceptions.
Mom, we’ve discovered in the near 20 years since Dad’s been gone, likes to take her dinner later in the evening. It was not news that she is a night owl; her own gentle father was a died-in-the-wool night owl, running his hotel into the wee hours and coming home to his kids, who were often waiting up for him. The fact that he have fresh donuts in hand from the bakery near the hotel was no small incentive for his kids.
But my mother faithfully made the 5:00 dinner schedule for my dad and her five kids, like multitudes of other women of her era. Even though, as she likes to say, “5:00 sure did come up fast” in the afternoons. I remember my friend Birdman, who I spent a lot of time laughing hard with in grad school, joked about how his own mom’s early evening practices, circa mid-1960s. When she heard his dad pull into the garage, she would fly into the kitchen, where dinner was not on. No matter what she had planned for dinner, she’d rev up a frying pan with a little butter and start sautéing an onion. Bird laughed like crazy about how his dad would walk in and say “smells SO good in here” as his mom made out like dinner was all set . . . .
Enter shakshuka, whose qualities our home-cook moms would have loved. There are countless reasons to adore this Middle Eastern eggs-poached-in-tomatoes dish, which is said to have originated in Tunisia before taking off throughout the Levant. Shakshuka has been featured in most every Middle Eastern cookbook of recent publication, but it wasn’t until I saw Molly Yeh do shakshuka so persuasively in her cookbook and on her blog (as in: here, here, here, here) that I felt like I’d missed out on a main food group.
And promptly fell in quick-dinner/delicious-dinner love.
Dan loves shakshuka because it’s incredibly savory, warming, and luscious while being healthy.
I love shakshuka because of all of that too, but also because it starts with that ultra-fragrant sauté of onion and garlic and spices. And no matter how low my larder may get, I always have canned tomatoes, eggs, onion and garlic. The rest of the shakshuka ingredients are icing on the cake, and so easily varied. You can use whatever bits of garnishes you may have on hand to change it up. I always have labneh on hand, so I often top our shakshuka with creamy dollops.
My dad was very fond of eggs, and if the nutritional powers that be hadn’t so far off on what made a healthy diet back then (they encouraged the low-fat, high-carb approach, which meant fewer eggs and more pasta), he would have thrived on a shakshuka dinner.
Pretty sure Mom would have thrived on it too, when she heard the clock strike 4:45.
Shakshuka with Avocado, Labneh, and Za'atar
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- Few pinches kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon harissa or pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 28 oz. canned petite diced tomatoes
- 4 eggs
- 1 avocado, diced
- 3/4 cup labneh or Greek yogurt, whisked smooth
- Big pinch za'atar
- Parsley, cilantro or mint leaves, to finish
- Heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt, cooking until the onions are soft and translucent but not browned.
- Stir in the harissa or red pepper flakes if using, coriander, paprika, garlic powder and fresh garlic, stirring just until fragrant, about a minute. Add the tomatoes and sugar and cook until warmed through.
- To poach the eggs, crack each one individually into a little bowl (easier to get the shell out if needed) and add them one at a time. I like to crack eggs on a paper towel, then slip them into the bowl, to keep from getting egg all over the counter.
- Make a divot in the tomatoes with the back of a large spoon to make a spot for the egg, and pour the egg in from the bowl. Do this for each of the four eggs.
- The eggs will cook through in the tomatoes with a sunny-side-up look (but the longer they’re in there, the more cooked through the yolks will be). Or, put a lid on the pan and cook the eggs more swiftly to your desired doneness.
- Before serving, top the shakshuka with diced avocado and dollops of labneh. Dust with za’atar and finish with fresh herbs. Scoop the two eggs with tomatoes into each of two bowls to serve.
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I'm so glad you're here! You'll find among these pages the fresh and classic Lebanese recipes we can't get enough of! My mission is to share my tried + true recipes -- and to help our Lebanese food-loving community keep these culinary traditions alive and on the table. What recipes are you looking for? Let me know!
Regarding instruction number 3 in the recipe above — I find cracking the eggs into the little bowl as suggested easier than cracking them onto the paper towel, also suggested, as I find it difficult to slip the eggs off the paper towel and into the tomato sauce.
Hmmm…thanks Mark! That’s funny, and I reworded that to be clear: I just crack the egg on the paper towel, then slip the egg into the bowl. This makes clean up easy! I find even cracking eggs on the side of the bowl can run egg white onto the counter.
My comment above did have a smiley face to indicate I am playing the fool. Unfortunately deleted when I uploaded it. So to be clear — I was teasing!
Haha!!!! I’m all smiley face reading that!
Oh wow, this looks scrumptious, Maureen! Not a dish we grew up with either, but I will be trying it. Thank you for sharing your family stories. We grew up in El Paso, Tx with the Lebanese-Syrian church community there, but our Mom grew up in Detroit, and was our kitchen goddess. I grew up in the kitchen learning from her. Lots of uncles, aunts , and cousins— all tied together with love consisting of faith, music, storytelling and food, food, food!
Love your family stories!
What a perfect upbringing you had with your beautiful mother and family and our Lebanese culture! And as you say: food food FOOD! Thank you Marlene. Love to know how you like the shakshuka too!
This is a perfect addition to my recipes. Simple and yummy and it works perfectly with my cleaning eating commitment for 2018. I figured the tsp of sugar was to tone down the acid from the tomatoes, so might try without the sugar. I’m going to share it with a Facebook group I’m on that’s part of the Fit Rise program. Thanks!
That’s great Jeannine, thank you! And it will come out delicious with our without the sugar!
It is lent.
Keep your delicious recipes coming.
This is when we feast!
With the help of your recipes.
Thank you so much!
what is za’atar?
Hi Bonnie–za’atar is a Lebanese spice blend of wild thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds. Learn more about it here! You can try my blend here!
We never had this growing up. I need to make this. Most of the recipes I’ve found are bit like a ratatouille with the eggs, I want to add some shawarma or a some sort of lamb sausage to it. Messiah qom.
Thank you for introducing me to this delicious dish. I ended up adding shiitake mushrooms, and spinach…. With time I hope to perfect the cooking of the eggs so they are not hard. I do not like runny whites but have ended with harden yellow part…
That is a tricky aspect of this dish for sure. Try basting the whites with the hot tomato broth.
Happy New Year Maureen,
Have you ever tried home made yogurt made from 10% half and half cream?
I allow it to ferment at least 36 hours for extra tang and a lower carb count. It is so very thick and luscious.
A dream on your tongue. Simply amazing!
Gladys I am so happy you mentioned this! It reminds me that my Aunt Hilda used to add cream to her milk for labneh. I did this once or twice for special occasions but not in a very long time. Your fermentation time is longer than mine and I’m going to try yours, and add some half and half in my next batch. Thank you!!
This was delicious! My husband and I had this along with garlicky whipped feta dip, fresh veggies and warm naan bread. It was a big hit! I’ve been experimenting more and more with your cookbook and really enjoying the recipes. Had trouble finding sumac locally so I ordered it from your website. Thank you for the great details and tips you provide – makes things easier!
Hands down the best shakshuka recipe ever. My husband is begging for more. Your recipes are always so rich with flavor!
Robin I love to hear that!! Dan begs for more of this too, often!! Thanks so much!