I heard about the podcast Gastropod recently from a fellow foodie colleague, and I’ve been catching up on their episodes on my morning runs. This week I listened to the breakfast episode, and found myself doing some serious thinking about my breakfast habits.
The episode suggests that what Americans think of as a traditional breakfast is really not; not by historical standards nor by comparison with the rest of the world. The rest of the world is more content with eating savories and vegetables for breakfast, like beans, complex grains, spiced greens, leftovers, etc. What Americans reach for each morning–refined flours, coffee, juice, etc–is, as the hosts mention, the ideal capitalist breakfast–nutritionally, it provides just enough kick to get you out of the door and into the workplace, but no more. (And there’s also the matrices of industrial food production that go into the cereal industry and the morning bacon and eggs… If only those Victorian sanatorium owners who made the first health cereals could see the cereal aisle now.*)
So, in the true spirit of gustatory reflection, I looked at a week of my own breakfasts. Most days I make scrambled eggs with at least one vegetable, usually spinach–but this is often accompanied by white toast with peanut butter (natural, so points for me?), coffee with creamer, and a banana-berry smoothie. Lately, however, I’ve been eating more and more cereal, because it really is a miracle food for people with no time in the mornings. More and more processed food and flours, and fewer and fewer vegetables and protein. This got me thinking–what is my aversion, exactly, to eating savory foods for breakfast? Really, nothing but tradition and what the market sells us as breakfast. I’m perfectly content eating “breakfast” for dinner, so why not the inverse?
I suppose that means what I’m making this week is a Marxist utopian breakfast? (Yes, I know this is a misapplication of Marx. Don’t critique my theory jokes.) Fitting, then, that I picked a dish that’s often called “Eggs in Purgatory”: shakshuka.
The folks at Gastropod spoke highly of shakshuka, and the ever-brilliant @notthatoxford has spoken highly of the dish, so off I went to buy pounds of tomatoes. PK Newby’s modified shakshuka recipe seemed like a good place to start my breakfast vegetable consumption, and as it turned out I’d bought twice as many tomatoes as the recipe called for, so I decided to double the recipe to make a huge batch, so I can make single-servings all week. The recipe below, however, will make about two servings.
Ingredients (with modifications by me)
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 3 tablespoons yellow onion, diced
• 1/4 cup green pepper, diced
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to season vegetables
• 2 teaspoons harissa (or Sriracha, as long as it’s spicy)
• 3/4 teaspoon paprika
• Big pinch dried oregano
• 1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes, either canned or fresh, with their liquid
• 1/3 cup water
• 1/3 cup white beans
• An egg per serving
Heat the olive oil over medium in a saucepan then add the onions and peppers, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until soft, about 6 minutes. Stir in garlic, sriracha, and paprika until fully coated and fragrant, about 45 seconds. Mix in tomatoes, water, and white beans to combine and simmer over low heat until somewhat thickened, about 10 minutes. Taste and reseason with salt, pepper, and spices as desired.
Create a small ditch in the sauce for each egg (make sure you can’t see the bottom of the pan). Crack egg into the hole, cover the pan, and simmer over low heat 3-5 minutes. Cook until whites are firm and yolk is as you desire it.
Tasting notes: Holy cow, why aren’t we eating savory breakfasts all the time? This dish is warm and comforting, satisfyingly filling, and has enough spice to wake up even the most tired of TAs. I like it with green peppers instead of roasted red ones, and the dish could also take zucchini well, if you were so inclined.
*Disclaimer: Just so we’re clear that this is not a cereal- or Victorian-sanatorium-owner- hating post: Grape Nuts have always been my favorite cereal.