I want a t-shirt that says “Yotam Ottolenghi Is My Homeboy” because he is basically my Israeli-British food savior. Author of Jerusalem, Plenty, Plenty More, and others, he is a London-based, world-renowned chef known for his global dishes and fantastic vegetarian fare. Also, he has master's degrees in philosophy AND comparative literature, so he's just an all around badass. He is featured on the Jerusalem episode of Anthony Bourdain’s, Parts Unknown, and his genius shines through. He mostly recommends vegetarian items, but Bourdain doesn’t even notice because they are so good. (Side note: I am so pissed they took Parts Unknown off Netflix. Sure, the theme song sucked, but the show was great. Just go ahead and buy Jerusalem and DRC. Trust me.) <- JK, did they not take it off? So confused. His shakshuka is one such dish that is vegetarian but oh so savory and filling. I like to throw a little feta in mine and garnish it with fresh parsley. I find that the cheese enhances the richness of the lightly poached eggs. If you serve it on fresh challah, you’re golden. I also made a little fattoush to serve on the side for some extra greens (and carbs).
It might seem obvious to serve this tart and spicy entree with a white wine, maybe even a sparkling one at that, but I had something different in mind. I went with a light-bodied Mediterranean red that wouldn’t overwhelm the flavors in the dish but would complement the shashuka. Shakshuka traces its roots back to the Maghreb but was introduced and popularized in the Mediterranean (Israel, in particular) in the 1950's with the influx of Libyan and Tunisian Jewish immigrants moving there.
The Thymiopoulos Young Vines provides the perfect acidity and funk to pair with this rich tomato and egg dish. It was hard to find much information about the Young Vines online, but here’s what I know: it’s from Naoussa which is a wine-growing region in the northern hills of Macedonia and looks fucking amazing just by doing a quick Google image search. Also, it seems up for debate whether it's spelled/transliterated as "Noussa" "Naousa" or "Naossa" in English. I get it, it's kind of like translating from Hebrew which is a bitch. On that note, there are myriad ways you can spell shakshuka.
While we don’t often see a lot of Greek wines lining the aisles of our local liquor stores, Greece is actually one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world and produces a plethora of both red and white wines and has done so for thousands of years. You've probably heard of Dionysus, Greek god of wine, fertility and a bunch of other stuff. Clearly the Greeks take their wine pretty seriously and have for some time.
The Young Vines is super tart and acidic, with a medium body. It's a light garnet color; really pretty. I noted to my friends that it had a brininess to it and maybe that was because it was a coastal wine. They didn't disagree but maybe they were just humoring me. It's spicy with notes of dark fruits like cherries and blackberries. This wine is pretty perfect with shakshuka but I would also love it just by itself on my couch watching Parts Unknown (which, to be honest, my guests have left and I am doing!) The cool thing about having friends with kids is they like to head out early and you can just pursue your real passion of chilling with good TV.
I like making shakshuka because it's way easier than it seems and is always a crowd-pleaser. I've actually been perfecting my recipe over the past few years. The first time I made it, the eggs were rock solid rather than delicately poached (poaching is a serious acquired skill) and the sauce was a little liquidy. I learned (by accident because I bought the wrong tomatoes) that using whole canned plum tomatoes rather than diced tomatoes leads to a better consistency. Crushed tomatoes are also okay, but you have to let the liquid cook off for a bit. Those are just some shakshuka tips from me to you. Oh, and drink this wine.