“A Very Typical Mediterranean Country Dish”
I’m a big egg fan. Soft-boiled, hard-boiled, scrambled, in quiches or omelettes, poached, fried…this unique recipe is a wonderful way to enjoy the good gift of eggs!
You like eggs, yes?
Nooo, not Robin’s eggs. Too small.
Ostrich eggs? No, they are a bit big for this recipe.
It’s Spring! Time when free range chickens lay lots of fresh eggs with bright orange yolks! Go looking under the hens.
Oh, you live in the city. Hmmmm.
You work in a cubicle? In front of a what?
Well, we jump faster, climb higher and leap over mountains at speeds you wouldn’t believe, here in the country.
If, after searching, you really can’t come up with the farmer’s market version of fresh eggs, plain old chicken eggs will do.
“Plain” being a relative term.
I try to find eggs with a mother hen who could range free under the sun, ate grass and didn’t consume soy or corn products. Eggs are most healthful when fertile – which means a rooster is with the flock.
Organic eggs are also usually very good.
I’ll skip the rest of my egg lecture. We’ll return to using eggs later.
You buy a sack full at the outdoor summer markets, yes?
Then you will like this recipe!
I was taught how to make this dish by a very dear guest in our home, a dozen years ago. I have made it many times, following a few scratchy notes and now share it, slightly modified, with you.
Our special guest told us it is a very common dish in the Mediterranean, where each country adds some of their own region’s vegetables.
In Morocco, this recipe is called
“Chak (Shak) Shu Ka.”
Bring Summer into Spring with this very lovely, all-season dish.
You will also need to find these items:
1 large onion
3 small 6-inch zucchini (they call them “courgettes” in some English-speaking parts of the world)
1 medium 8-inch yellow summer squash
2 green peppers – organic is best
4 plum tomatoes
3-4 cloves of garlic
7 eggs (enough to add to a large frying pan)
2-3 TBSP Olive Oil for sautéing
You can feed 3-4 people with the ingredients in this recipe.
A large frying pan WITH a cover – a large pot cover works fine in a pinch
A spatula (pancake turner) or large spoon
A wooden cutting board
A sharp knife
A bowl in which to put your cut up vegetables
This recipe is really simple and easy.
It’s all a matter of slicing all your vegetables ¼-inch or less so they cook evenly and quickly.
And if you put the cover on the pan at the right times and take it off at the right times to stir in more ingredients, everything will turn out perfectly.
Cooking is NOT rocket-science!
Even not-so-perfect cooking will create a Great Meal – because these are fabulous ingredients.
As I always say, YOU CAN’T GO WRONG WITH GOOD INGREDIENTS!!!
Years ago, when we raised several varieties of chickens, we would often hear a rooster crowing – laughing at his hens? But if you heard one at nighttime? A fox! A fox in the chicken coop?!
START COOKING, IGNORE THE FOX
PROCRASTINATION NEVER GOT YOU ANYWHERE
Cut the top and bottom ends off your squashes. Slice your washed vegetables, starting with the zucchini and summer squash. Slice them thinly, 1/4-inch wide or less. Put them in a bowl.
Move on to de-seeding the pepper. Using a small knife, cut around the top of the pepper and pull out the center part, including the seeds.
You can also cut the pepper in half and then cut around the top to take out the seeds. Discard the seeds. Slice the pepper thinly, in ¼ -inch slices, as shown, and add them to your bowl.
Now peel the skin off your onion and slice it too, thinly of course, in ¼ -inch slices as best you can.
Slice the onion whole, so you make onion rings.
Start sautéing the rings of onion in the frying pan, with 2-3 TBSP Olive Oil and the burner heat on medium high.
Onions start out like this.
They start to shrink as they cook, like this.
But keep sautéing until they turn “a little brown” which might take 10 minutes or so, depending on the heat.
Don’t burn them, stir the pan!!
If you feel the pan heat is too high, lower it slightly.
Ignore the fox. Pay attention to the children when they need you, but ignore whatever foxes call for your attention. You’re heading for a winner and can’t be distracted, not this time!
When your onions are “a little brown” leave the burner heat on medium, then stir in your bowl of zucchini, summer squash and green pepper.
Don’t forget to cover the pan!
Let them Steam ’til the vegetables are soft, not mushy. The vegetables own moisture creates a sauce so they do not to burn.
Check them after maybe 10 minutes, but don’t check them too much because lifting the pan cover lets out steam needed for cooking the veggies.
While they are steaming, cut your washed plum tomatoes in thin slices, ¼ -inch thick. Peel your garlic cloves and slice them as thinly as you can, too.
When your pan of green, yellow and white veggies is becoming soft-ish…
Now add your tomatoes and garlic slices to the pan.
Stir the pan.
Re-cover the pan and wait another 10 minutes.
This is where you can read a book (just kidding), set the table, do dishes, etc. As long as you keep mindful of your cooking meal, like a good mother hen, hovering over her baby chicks.
Don’t be impatient. Wait. Good things are a happenin’ under that cover, even when you can’t see them.
Uncover the pan and check to see if the vegetables are ready. They should be soft but still not mushy.
Add a titch of salt (if you use it), a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper, a dash of black pepper (if you use it). Stir again.
Now, for the crowning experiment: the Eggs!
Add your eggs, whatever kind, color, breed, or quality, one by one – WHOLE. Try not to break the yolks. Seat them on top of the vegetables so that they sit an even distance apart from each other, like this:
Cover the pan yet again!! And wait. Another 10 minutes.
See, easy – just memorize the order of what to cook first, and then the different stages which each last for about 10 minutes, depending on your burner heat of course.
After the final 10 minutes, uncover the pan to check your eggs. The egg white should be solidified and the yolks nearly solid.
Turn off the stove and use your spatula to cut out around an egg or two, with vegetables underneath, when you serve this meal.
You can add thinly sliced sweet red pepper to the top of your Chak Shu Ka egg dish when you serve it, if you like.
Literally, I nearly forgot to photograph the finished product because my mouth was watering so badly, I just wanted to dig in and eat!!!
You’ll go a long way to find such beauty, simplicity and delicious flavor in a hot dish of eggs. The vegetables all meld together and you might think you’ve gone to a beautiful land…where all the flowers grow wild and the wind blows…and a Golden Goose lays fine chicken eggs under the front porch steps…
This dish merely “makes light.” Light in that it doesn’t sit heavily in your stomach. And it also sheds LIGHT, in the way it teaches how simply food can be made – to taste heavenly.
This concept, of poaching eggs on top of something, but not in water, revolutionized my thinking and expanded what I can now do with an egg!
If you have any comments or questions
about this post, I’d love to hear them.
I first wrote this blog in the middle of winter, when snow was coming down. I thought of Henny Penny and the sky falling, but this is the most beautiful way for it to fall.
But seriously, eggs are a pretty perfect source of protein, and nutrient-rich fat. I know some folks are allergic to eggs, and that’s sad…I’d substitute some white fish for the eggs. Again, you’ll need to add the fish, cover the pan and wait ten minutes.
Just don’t try to get eggs out of a rubber chicken, it won’t work. Enough.
Peace and good tidings,