Saturday, May 20, 2006


My vegan friends will have to excuse me for this one entry, in which we shall discuss a delicious and nutritious member of the animal protein: eggs. Eggs contain concentrated, high quality protein, and despite being maligned for cholesterol content, in fact, contain beneficial cholesterol which is essential for our bodies. Good eggs are also an excellent source of omega-3 acids. Naturally, there are various substitutes for eggs, and our recipe for today can be made with any of them, but this is a good opportunity to reflect on the egg industry.

Industrial production of eggs takes place in chicken coops, which are horrible, inhumane places. The chickens are placed in tiny cages, one against the other, with no room to move; many of them get sick standing there, and as a consequence are fed dreadful antibiotics. They are also force-fed things that are extremely harmful for them; given this situation, I'm not too excited about eating eggs that come from this industry.

There are other options, which, while not perfect, are substantially better. Free range eggs allow the hens to walk freely in the yard and eat organic, plant-based food. However, as in the regular egg industry, hens are often debeaked, and male chicken killed and discarded at birth.

Choosing to eat eggs is a very personal decision. For those who have eggs once in a while, choosing organic and free range diminishes the problems with the industry, though it doesn't make them go away. Either way, you can have the following recipe with eggs or tofu, to suit your choices.

The recipe is for yet another Israeli staple, this time, originally, from Libya: Shakshuka. Shakshuka is an egg dish where the eggs are cooked in a hot skillet filled with spicy tomato-pepper sauce. It works really well as a breakfast; those of you who feel well combining starches and protein are welcome to wipe off the remaining sauce with some good bread.

Shakshouka (serves four)

3 red peppers
2 tomatoes
1 large onion
6 cloves garlic
1 can organic tomato paste
water or vegetable broth
fresh ground chili
8 organic, free-range eggs, or a block of firm, crumbled tofu
fresh parsley

You'll need a large skillet with a flat bottom, which you'll glaze with olive oil and heat up. Then, you chop the onion and garlic in and add chili. When the kitchen starts smelling like there's something good happening, you chop and add the peppers and tomatoes; when they start getting soft, you add tomato paste, water or vegetable broth, and more chili. The liquids need to be added to the point when the mixture is quite diluted and watery. On a low fire, keep the sauce simmering until it reaches a viscuous quality - can take up to half an hour or more (why not do your laundry in the meantime? and while you're at it, clean the kitchen!). When the sauce is nice and viscuous, you add the eggs or tofu. If you're doing tofu, simply place the crumbs on top of the sauce. If you're doing eggs, gently break them up and place them over the tomato mixture - DO NOT MIX (it's prettier with the eggs whole). Then, cover the skillet and cook until the tofu absorbs the tomato sauce, or the eggs get hard to your heart's desire. Serve in the skillet, or carefully slide onto plates.

Now that we're out of tomatoes and peppers, we have only the sauerkraut, and a few cucumber survivors and some lettuce, to keep us until the good people of Chubeza bring us our new vegetables on Monday. But we shall be back with the new bounty!

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