Shaking Up Shakshuka

Shakshuka -- with a twist.
Shakshuka — with a twist.

Whether for brunch or dinner, many of us have eagerly spooned up the delectable Middle Eastern dish of whole eggs cracked open and cooked gently in a chunky, bubbling sauce of tomatoes and peppers.

Now, this one-pot dish known as shakshuka gets turned on its head in this clever take that swaps out the eggs for fresh fish and shrimp instead.

“Seafood Shakshuka” is from “The Mediterranean Dish” (Clarkson Potter), of which I received a review copy.

Egypt-born Suzy Karadsheh, founder of The Mediterranean Dish blog, who now makes her home in Atlanta, offers up 120 sunny recipes that draw from her heritage, as well as from the flavors of neighboring Greece, Italy and Morocco.

Loaded with beautiful color photos, the book tempts with recipes that include “Anytime Falafel,” “Harissa, Red Lentil, and Tomato Soup,” “Braised Chicken, Mushrooms, and Poblano Peppers with Pomegranate Molasses,” and “No-Churn Tahini and Hazelnut Ice Cream.”

If you’re the type that gets antsy when cooking fish because you fear over-cooking it, this recipe was made for you. Because the fish fillets and shrimp gently poach in a covered pot of sauce, it’s nearly impossible to dry them out.

The sauce starts with sauteing onions, garlic and a green bell pepper. I actually used a red bell pepper instead because I’m not overly fond on the green ones. If you’re the same way, feel free to follow my lead.

Chopped tomatoes, tomato paste and a squeeze of lemon juice go in next, and simmer until everything melds. The sauce — as well as the seafood — gets a punch of flavor from sumac, cumin, dillweed, turmeric and ground coriander, all of which combine to impart a deep earthy warmth.

A one-pot meal easy enough to make on a weeknight.
A one-pot meal easy enough to make on a weeknight.

For the fish, I used perch that my brother-in-law caught. The fillets go in first, and cook for a few minutes before the shrimp are added. Because I happened to have some in the fridge, I garnished the shakshuka with chopped fresh parsley for a little more color contrast.

This saucy seafood dish begs for some grilled bread, flatbread, couscous or rice alongside.

It’s a dish that is as cozy as it gets, wrapping you in a cocoon of contentment like a comfy, soft quilt on a winter’s night.

Spiced but not spicy.
Spiced but not spicy.

Seafood Shakshuka
(Serves 4 to 6)

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons sumac

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried dillweed

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1 large green (or red) bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped

8 large garlic cloves, minced

5 vine-ripened medium tomatoes, diced (3 1/2 cups), or 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

3 tablespoons tomato paste

Juice of 1/2 large lemon (about 2 tablespoons)

1 cup water

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 1/4 pounds firm white fish fillet, such as halibut or cod, or a combination (thawed, if frozen), cut into large pieces

8 ounces large wild-caught shrimp (thawed, if frozen), peeled and deveined

In a small bowl, mix the coriander, sumac, cumin, dillweed, and turmeric.

In a large pot with a lid, heat 6 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, until very tender and fragrant, 10 to 12 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed to make sure the garlic doesn’t burn.

Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, lemon juice, and water. Season with about 1/2 teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Stir in half the spice mixture. Bring the chunky sauce to a boil, then turn the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the tomatoes are very soft and melded with the other vegetables, 15 to 20 minutes.

Pat the fish dry and season well on both sides with salt and black pepper. Apply all of the remaining spice mixture except 1/2 teaspoon to the fish, patting it on both sides. Nestle the seasoned fish pieces in the bubbling shakshuka sauce. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until the fish turns white and flakes easily, and is cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, pat the shrimp dry and toss with a big pinch of salt and black pepper (about 1/2 teaspoon each) and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon spice mixture. Nestle the shrimp in the shakshuka, cover, and continue to cook over medium-low heat, turning the shrimp as needed so that they turn pink all over, about 3 minutes more. (Remember that the shrimp will continue to cook in the hot sauce even after you remove the pan from the heat, so be careful not to overcook it.)

Spoon the seafood shakshuka into bowls and serve immediately.

Adapted from “The Mediterranean Dish” by Suzy Karadsheh

More Great Fish Recipes to Try: Broiled Fish with Lemon Curry Butter

And: Fish in Pine Nut Sauce

And: Fish with Charmoula

And: Halibut and Spinach with Orange-Pine Nut Vinaigrette

And: Miso-Glazed Fish

And: Monkfish with Caper Butter

And: Oven-Steamed Fish

And: Striped Bass and Kimchi Stew

And: Pan-Fried Fish, Green Onions, and Chiles

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