Shakshuka with Avocado Toast

Shakshuka with Avocado Toast is a a low-maintenance, big flavor recipe -- the perfect first course for 2021.

text and photos by Andrea McCoy

January arrives with its dense fog, slippery snow and stunning sunrises. There’s something invigorating about the beginning of a new year. Probably more so this year than any other year I can remember.

I love sipping a cup of steaming hot coffee and watching the sun sparkle on the skiff of snow in the pasture as it slowly spreads pink and orange streaks across the Yakima Valley every morning.

The holiday decorations are tucked away for another year. The house, once again clean and tidy, feels oddly empty without all the holiday cheer. The kids are ready for a rhythm and routine again, letting me know by arguing and fighting with their siblings and announcing to no one in particular how bored they are at least 12 times a day.

Every year I vow to meal-plan better, only go to the grocery store once a week, save more money by meal prepping, eat healthier, cook more vegetables; all the shiny resolutions a brand-new year brings. It usually lasts about a month, but January is typically a vegetable-heavy month around my house. We experiment more and I try to find a new dinner or two to add into the rotation.

A major highlight but also a massive undertaking in 2020 was all the cooking. We ate at home together just about every meal for a year. Some would argue this was one of the more difficult parts of the year.

Burnout is real and I felt it too. We ate more than our fair share of cold cereal, leftover pizza and grilled cheese sandwiches all year long when I just couldn’t rally to make another meal.

But sitting at the table together, with nothing to rush off to, was the breath of fresh air we needed as a family. We talked and laughed, and fought and grumbled and there was that one time I tossed a fork across the table and put myself to bed (yes — me, the mom), but we were together and those memories gathered around the table are ones I’ll hold dear for years to come.

Since we’re celebrating a brand-new year and all its lovely potential, I figured a low-maintenance, big flavor recipe is just what we need to kick off 2021. Shakshuka checks all the boxes: can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner and takes less than 30 minutes to make start to finish. Even better it’s healthy, packed with vegetables and easy to modify for preferences or dietary concerns.

My only insistence about this particular recipe is to splurge a little on the “good” stuff.

Buy a loaf of sourdough bread at Essencia Artisan Bakery or Viera’s Bakery & Deli or choose the freshest one you can find at the grocery store. Buy the best canned tomatoes on the shelf. I use Cento brand plum tomatoes, which I highly recommend, but you can certainly use a different brand or style of tomato. If you don’t like big chunks of tomato, swap for diced or crushed tomatoes. Watch your eggs closely and if you prefer runny yolks, take the pan off the heat right at the five- or six-minute mark. And finally, adjust the red pepper flakes and chipotle in adobo to your preference. The recipe calls for one teaspoon of the chipotle peppers, which gives it just a tiny bit of smoky heat, but you can add as little or as much as you prefer. Harissa is a lovely swap for the chipotle peppers and has a similar heat profile.

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons salted butter divided

1 small or 1/2 large red onion diced

1 red bell pepper diced

1 small zucchini diced

2 cloves garlic minced

1 cup fresh baby spinach leaves

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Dash of red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon chipotle

pepper in adobo sauce

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

32 ounce can Cento plum tomatoes (may also used diced or crushed if preferred)

4 ounces crumbled feta cheese

5-6 eggs

1 tablespoon parsley minced

2 large avocados

4 sliced sourdough bread toasted

Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add oil and one tablespoon butter to the pan. Give a quick stir to combine and allow the butter to melt.

Add the onion, red bell pepper and zucchini to the pan. Turn heat to low and cook for five to eight minutes, stirring occasionally until the onion is translucent and the vegetables are soft. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add the garlic to the pan, stir and cook for two additional minutes until fragrant. Remove chipotle pepper from can or jar. Use a knife to separate the seeds from the pepper. Mince the pepper.

Stir in the cumin, smoked paprika, dash red pepper flakes and chipotle pepper in adobo (use some of the chipotle pepper and some of the sauce from the can). Add can of tomatoes to the pan. Cook on low for eight to 10 minutes until the sauce thickens, stirring often. The sauce should be at a slow boil, not splattering and spitting over the pan. Use a spatula to break the tomatoes into smaller pieces. Add spinach and half the crumbled feta. Stir to combine.

Carefully make a well in the sauce and crack an egg directly into the sauce. Repeat until all the eggs are nestled into the sauce. Sprinkle the eggs with a dash of salt and pepper. Cover the skillet with a lid to allow the eggs to cook through, about five to eight minutes, until just set or to your preferred doneness.

While the eggs cook, toast bread and lightly coat with the remaining tablespoon of butter. Slice avocado, scooping out the flesh directly onto the toast. Smash with a fork and spread evenly. Lightly sprinkle the smashed avocado with kosher salt and red pepper flakes.

When eggs are set. Turn heat off to the pan. Garnish with remaining feta cheese and minced parsley. Scoop egg along with the tomato sauce onto the avocado toast. Enjoy.