I didn’t always love to cook. In fact, throughout college, my cereal obsession was somewhat renowned. Why bother with mixing, sautéing, and all. those. dishes. when you could just crack open a box of Kashi Go Lean for dinner?
Then a few years ago, on a whim, I signed up for a CSA garden share and started receiving weekly crates of vegetables from a local farm. Suddenly, my fridge was bursting with kale, cucumbers, and kohlrabi, and I needed to figure out what to do with it all. Through my trials and tribulations in the kitchen, I’ve come to realize how comforting it is to know where your food comes from and how rewarding it can be when you create a delicious dish with your own hands. Plus, I really love to eat.
Since my life before Madge revolved around shopping lists and recipe testing, I’ve been looking forward to getting into a routine with cooking in the van. Our first week on the road was awesome and full of delicious food. We had white hots in Batavia, beef on weck in Buffalo, poutine in Ontario, pub cheese soup in Detroit, and ice cream cones on the shore of Lake Michigan. But it’s time to get back to life as usual (van style), and it’s time for me to get back in the kitchen(ette).
Cooking in the van is an adventure in itself, so I thought I’d start with a tried-and-true meal: shakshuka. Shakshuka is a Middle Eastern dish that couldn’t be easier to throw together and tastes like comfort in a bowl. Since the whole thing cooks up in one pot (easy cleanup!), Avery and I would usually eat it on the floor while watching a movie. I’d suggest that for all of you who have living rooms and televisions!
And I have to say, things went surprisingly smoothly. We camped in Manistee National Forest for the night (our first night dispersed camping on federal land), as we drive across Michigan. Shortly after pulling in and popping the top, a gaggle of turkeys wondered by, clucking at each other like they were laughing over the latest forest gossip. Amid the trees, evening noises, and our omni-present mosquito nemesis, this dish came together in no time with minimal chopping, a little simmering, and enough for leftovers. My inspiration for this recipe comes from Love and Lemons, one of my favorite cooking blogs. I usually make it exactly as the recipe dictates, but since we don’t have harissa right now, and the van fridge space is tight, I substituted chili pepper for a little kick. That worked perfectly, and I recommend it if you don’t have harissa on hand.
Okay, time to dig in. Cheers!
Serves: serves 4 (or 2 with leftovers!)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons harissa, cayenne pepper, or any level of spice you prefer
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
A big handful of spinach
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Warm up the oil in a pot or deep pan. Add the onions, red pepper, and some salt. Cook the veggies until they’re soft and the onions have started to brown a bit. This took about ten minutes for me over the camp stove.
Cut the heat a bit and add the garlic, smoked paprika, and cumin. Stir well, then pour in the crushed tomatoes, whichever spicy seasoning you prefer (or not), and maybe a bit more salt and pepper.
Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the sauce is thickened. Once it’s thick, try a spoonful (careful, it will be really hot!) Then add more salt, pepper, spice, or whatever is lacking.
Add the spinach and stir until wilted.
Now is the fun part! Make four wells in the sauce and crack in the eggs. Cover the pan and cook until the eggs are set. This can take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes, depending on your pan and the stove temperature. Just keep a close eye on those little eggs.
Once the eggs are set, pull the pan off the heat and sprinkle generously with feta and parsley. Then grab your toasted bread and start scooping!