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How to make shakshuka, the ultimate comfort food

Canned tomatoes and frozen spinach form the basis

Canned tomatoes and frozen spinach form the basis of this dinner featuring eggs and other ingredients on hand. Credit: Marge Perry

Could shakshuka be the perfect coronavirus food? It’s simple to make with items you likely have on hand, highly nutritious — and so very delicious. For many of us, eggs poached in savory tomato sauce is the ultimate comfort food.

This version of shakshuka is full of ingredients that researchers believe may help raise our serotonin levels: cheese, spinach and eggs. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood — and is produced mostly in our gastrointestinal tract. So perhaps science gives us the reason this is a feel-good meal — or maybe it is just that it so tasty and easy to eat. Whatever the reason, it is simple to throw together — and easy to adapt to ingredients you have on hand.

This version uses chopped frozen spinach (because that’s what was on hand) but you can also use fresh; crumbled feta is great, but creamy mozzarella, shredded Cheddar or grated Parmesan would also be dandy; and diced, crushed or puréed tomatoes all yield different, but equally delicious results.

SHAKSHUKA WITH SPINACH AND FETA

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 large red or green pepper, chopped in 1/2-inch pieces

1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon (or to taste) crushed red pepper flakes

2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomato

3/4 teaspoon salt, divided

1 (10-ounce) box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese, divided (about 3 ounces)

8 large eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bell pepper, onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 9 to 10 minutes. Stir in the paprika, cumin and pepper flakes and cook 30 seconds.

3. Add the tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and reduce the heat to medium -low and continue to simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened, about 14 to 15 minutes. Stir in the spinach and 1/2 cup of the feta.

4. With the back of a large spoon, working one at a time, form 8 wells in the mixture. As soon as you make each indentation, crack an egg directly into it. When all 8 eggs are nestled in the sauce, sprinkle them with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the egg whites are set and the yolks still runny, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the skillet from the oven and sprinkle with the remaining fets.

Makes 4 servings.

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