Growing up Catholic, my mother would often make frittatas for our mandatory meatless Friday night dinners. Friends of mine thought it was exotic and intriguing, but for us it was just a big, thick omelet filled with lots of vegetables. Potatoes and onions were the constants, but peppers, asparagus, broccoli rabe or zucchini were the variables. As a little kid, I hated those variables. I did a lot of picking out and sneaking to the dog or my napkin in those days. But as I grew, so did my appreciation for those “weird, icky” vegetables, especially peppers. The one thing however, that always bothered me, even after learning to love them, was that their skins were so tough and indigestible. I still picked out the peppers, but only to remove the skins. Tender and sweet, they melted in my mouth, leaving a sweet little pocket in the eggs as I picked them out.
Another Friday night egg dish that my mom made occasionally was Eggs in Purgatory—eggs simmered in savory tomato sauce. I remember complaining, as a kid, how gross it sounded and that the whole miserable affair was an unfortunate waste of perfectly good tomato sauce that should only be served with macaroni (back when pasta was called macaroni). The fact that my mother did not smack me or send me to my room at that very minute, (she may very well have and my rose-colored glasses are closer to crimson ) either showed enormous self-control or a smug understanding of just how delicious she knew it was—probably both. The runny yolks melting into the tangy, rich tomato sauce, the crusty bread that sopped it all up. She was right— It was delicious.
This recipe combines the best of both dishes and is a tribute to my mom who really mastered the art of meatless Fridays, good Catholic that she was…mostly.
ROASTED PEPPER SHAKSHUKA
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 orange pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large Vidalia onion, sliced into slivers
2 scallions (or garlic scapes) , cut into 2-inch strips
Thyme leaves for garnish
- Roast the peppers over a gas flame or under a broiler until lightly charred all over, but not too soft. Transfer them to a bowl, cover with a plate and let cool. Peel the peppers, remove the core and seeds and cut them into ½-inch wide strips.
- In a large cast-iron skillet, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add the pepper strips and scallions (or garlic scapes), season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are very soft, about 8 minutes longer. Using a spoon, make 6 wells in the vegetables and place a teaspoon of butter into each. Crack the eggs into the wells, being careful not to break the yolks. Season lightly with salt and pepper, cover and cook over moderately low heat until just set, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle the thyme on top and serve with crusty bread.