Shakshuka (Arabic: شكشوكة; Hebrew: שקשוקה) is Middle Eastern dish consisting of poached eggs cooked in a sauce of tomatoes, peppers, onions, and spices (often including cumin, turmeric, and chillies), and usually served with pita for mopping up.
But for those of us who grew up on shakshuka breakfasts in Israel, it means home. It means taking time on a Shabbat morning to make a feast of poached eggs and serving them to friends. It’s a tradition and we love traditions.
So this year my kayak buddy Ofer and I decided it was time to pass the gift of a Shakshuka state of mind to my Son Oren, who is turning 12. We got up one morning and packed our portable kitchen into our kayaks and headed north into a late summer rainstorm.
The wind picked up and the clouds looked ominous, we decided to fasten a tow line to Oren’s kayak to make sure he stays in NY State. The water was still warm and the feeling of a good backyard adventure was brewing. Amazing things happen when you pack a dozen eggs into a kayak and bring a frying pan. The possibilities are endless.
We found shelter by a lifeguard station and began to brew tea. Ofer took out peppers, onions, spice kit and a little cutting board. I put together our little butane rocket stove we call “Super Gazia” but that’s another story.
Of course no true adventure is complete without a tea ceremony. We pack thick restaurant grade glasses each in its own sock to keep from banging. We have our tea bags, sugar and mint leaves. Crouching on the ground we slurp the sweet brew and wait for the oncoming rain.
Ofer has got the other stove busy sautéing onions. He’s happiest when he’s near a cooking contraption and has appreciative mouths to feed. Oren and I left him there and headed for a swim to work up an appropriate appetite.
The public beach was deserted. The rest of the local humanity listened to the weatherman and planned accordingly, but the water was still warm and Oren is learning to love the feeling of raw nature. He resembles a dolphin slicing thru the waves wearing his red swim cap and white goggles. We stroked hard toward Ofer and our little kitchen.
Carefully carving each egg along with the enough sauce to fill half a pita, Ofer handed Oren the first serving. Oren crouching like a Bedouin with a towel neatly folded around his midsection, tucked into the pita like there was no tomorrow.
And like proud parents with a grin a mile wide, Ofer and I knew instantly that we had a shakshuka convert before us. Oren became yet another link in the tradition of pita wipers who gather around the primitive hearth to worship the poached egg wonder.
Here is wishing you plenty of moments like these in the upcoming year. All you need is to step out the door with a frying pan and the right state for mind.