15 October 2007

Speckled Butter Bean Shakshouka with Yogurt Sauce

I grew up going to farmers markets and roadside stands where fresh shell beans were readily available. My family is from the south, which means fresh butter beans, baby limas, and black eyed peas are held in high regard. As much as I love New York and its Greenmarket, it is rather lacking in the fresh bean arena. I guess New Yorkers just aren’t beans people. That’s too bad, because fresh beans are wonderful: they cook up in minutes, and they’re far superior to canned beans and much easier than rehydrating dried beans. This past week I was delighted to see an array of fresh beans in Maryland, beautiful coolers full of slippery black beans, limas, crowder peas, and speckled butter beans.

Shakshouka is a Middle Eastern dish in which eggs are poached in a simmering vegetable mixture. The most traditional version of shakshouka involves eggs in a spicy tomato sauce, but it can also be made with beans or other vegetables. In the spring, shakshouka is made with a fresh fava bean and artichoke mixture, and in winter the eggs can be poached in a stew of dried fava beans and sausage. I’ve reinterpretted this Middle Eastern dish with American ingredients, using those speckled butter beans. Shakshouka is often served with a yogurt sauce made of yogurt and tahini, but to keep in the American way I’ve used peanut butter. Yogurt and peanut butter may sound like an odd combination, but they make a delicious sauce. This makes a nice brunch dish or a simple dinner, and make sure to have some toast or flat bread for mopping up the juices.

Butter Bean Shakshouka with Yogurt Sauce
If fresh beans aren’t available you can substitute 3 cups cooked beans and reduce the cooking time slightly. For those who can’t have a meal without meat, some chunks of merguez sausage make a good addition. Serve with pita bread or toast. Serves 4.

1/2 a medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lb fresh shell beans, like lima, butter, or fava beans
1 sprig thyme, optional
juice of half a lemon
4 eggs
olive oil, salt, red pepper
for yogurt sauce:
6 oz. plain yogurt
1 heaping tablespoon peanut butter or tahini
squeeze of lemon juice

1. Heat a glug of olive oil in a wide skillet or dutch oven. Saute the onion and garlic over medium heat until soft and translucent. Add 2 cups of water to the pan and add the beans and thyme, there should be enough water to half-way cover the beans. Season to taste with salt and red pepper. Simmer the mixture for 15-20 minutes until the beans are tender, adding water as necessary. Squeeze in the lemon juice.
2. One at a time, crack an egg and slide it into the simmering bean mixture, spacing them evenly in the pan. Place a lid on the pan and simmer over low heat until the egg whites are opaque and the yolks are soft set but still runny.
3. Scoop some of the beans into your serving bowls, then gently scoop an egg into each bowl. Stir together the yogurt, nut butter, and lemon. Drizzle the yogurt sauce over each bowl. Serve immediately with bread.


Anonymous said...

Before I reread your post, I kept searching for the spicy tomato sauce in your recipe! Thanks for teaching me that shakshouka can be made with vegetable mixtures too!

May said...

We at home love Shakshouka, but mostly the 'simple' ones wth tomatoes and onion (and eggs, of course!).
Ths recipe sound great and I'll defntly try it.
Just one question: can canned butter beans be used? If so, do I need to cook them less in water?
Thanks :)

Mercedes said...

Hillary- thanks, I wanted to highlight the fact that shakshouka is more than the tomato version popularized by Israelis, and has a long history and many variations.

M- yes, you can definitely use canned beans. I'd use 3 cups canned beans-drain and rinse them well first. You'd probably want to reduce the water slightly since they won't be absorbing any, maybe only a cup, but I'd go by eye and see what looks right. And reduced the cooking time slightly, maybe only 10 minutes. You can also smash up a few of the beans if you want a thicker consistency, but that depends on your preference.
Let me know how it goes!

Figs, Bay, Wine said...

I bet this is the original en cocotte! How divine. And it's so interesting what you say about the bean selection up here. There are some interesting American types, like cowpeas/ cranberry beans, but for the most part, the selection seems informed by Mediterranean cuisine and what Med restaurants in the area are serving - so lots of borlotti and fava beans. The south, of course, does beans better than anywhere else in the states. Such selection! Gorgeous recipe.

Anonymous said...

Ah, Desert Candy's Mercedes,

I am very happy to find your luscious blog site. I am going to make the mate roll with sesame creme this weekend! Most of all, you taught me about this concept of molecular pairing of food - cool! I couldnt believe all the blog and web sites out there on this incredible concept! This is going to change my cooking style entirely. I'm a bit too on the analytical side and have sought some "framework" for making food pairing decisions and now i see the key! Some people like Alice Waters and yourself are born i believe with an innate sense of excellent, bizarre and tasty pairings- i will have to learn!

a very grateful lisat

Anonymous said...

Good morning full of beans to you Mercedes! Because, to get the fresh beans at the greenmarkets, that better be the mindset you wake up with, because you have to get there early to score the fresh beans, before the chefs buy them all up.
I remember one day on my way into work (I was late, as usual) I saw a stand with pink-eyed cow peas, but didn't have time to buy them. I went back at lunch and the farmer said they'd all been claimed by some chef, but I guess I looked so disappointed that she sold me a pound or two. Nice lady, right?

I love (love!) knowing that there's more than one kind of shakshouka! I only recently discovered this amazing dish. Thanks for the knowledge!