Chef Nettie Colón’s shakshuka is a hearty, flavorful, and deceptively easy way to kick off your first full day of camping
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For your first full day camping, shakshuka is the ideal campfire breakfast: It requires only a single skillet or Dutch oven, cooks fairly quickly, looks impressive — particularly given how little work it involves — can feed a small crowd, and is both highly flavorful and filling, particularly if it’s eaten with hunks of bread. (There’s also something incredibly satisfying about watching it boil and simmer atop the cracklings of a live fire.)
The dish, which originated in North Africa, is traditionally made by poaching eggs in a base of tomatoes, peppers, onions, and oil. For her version, Nettie Colón ups the ante with eggplant and fresh mozzarella, as well as homemade (and made ahead) piri piri sauce that she uses as a sort of deeply flavorful sofrito base. You can customize shakshuka with any number of spices, but Colón prefers Mexican oregano and a trinity of ground cumin, coriander, and fennel: the combination of the three creates “a huge flavor profile that is just beautiful and delicious when cooking over fire,” Colón says. As a prep tip, she recommends mixing them before you go, which makes for less baggage and fuss at the campsite — you can use that time instead to savor your coffee, gaze at your surroundings, and plan the day as breakfast busily simmers away.
Campfire shakshuka recipe
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons piri piri sauce (see recipe here)
1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
1 heaping teaspoon each ground cumin, ground coriander, ground fennel
1 medium yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced through the root end
2 large sweet bell peppers, stems and seeds removed, thinly sliced
1 medium eggplant, chopped into ½-inch pieces
1 tablespoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 28-ounce can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes (such as Muir Glen)
2 bay leaves (optional)
1 large fresh mozzarella ball cut in 4 thick slices
¼ cup chopped cilantro
2 green onions, chopped
1 serrano chile, thinly sliced
4 pieces naan
Heat the oil in a cast-iron skillet over a medium fire. Add the piri piri sauce, oregano, cumin, coriander, and fennel and saute until fragrant, 2 minutes.
Add the onions, peppers, eggplant, brown sugar, and salt, and sauté, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, bring to a gentle simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 15 to 20 minutes until the sauce has thickened and the vegetables have broken down a bit.
Make 8 little dips in the sauce with a large spoon. Gently break the eggs into 4 of the dips. Put the fresh mozzarella slices in the remaining 4 dips. Cover the skillet with a lid and simmer gently until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still runny, 10 to 20 minutes.
Remove the skillet from the fire, and set aside for a couple of minutes to let the flavors meld. Adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, and sugar if needed. Serve with the naan bread on individual plates and top with the cilantro, green onions, and serrano chile slices.
Nettie Colón is the ever-roaming chef/founder of Minneapolis’s Red Hen Gastrolab, which has been dubbed “the persistent pop-up.” Dina Avila is a photographer in Portland, Oregon.
Recipe tested by Ivy Manning