Shakshuka

By Aparna Mele, MD

EMBRACE TOMATOES!

There is more to eating tomatoes than just their fantastic and fresh taste. In fact, they happen to be great for your health! Beyond being incredibly versatile and the fact that they can be prepared in seemingly endless number of dishes, tomatoes are full of health-enhancing properties and should be included as part of our regular balanced diets.

Often thought of as a vegetable, tomatoes are actually considered citrus fruit. In Italian, tomatoes are called pomodoro, “golden apple”! While low in calories, they are filled with nutrition. They are loaded with the carotenoid lycopene, a natural antioxidant that has anti-cancer properties.  A 1999 review published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that tomatoes and lycopene were associated with reduced risk of cancers of the prostate, lung, stomach, especially, but also pancreas, colon and rectum, esophagus, oral cavity, breast and cervix.  Tomatoes are an essential source of potassium, associated with heart health and nerve and muscle function. They are a rich source of calcium and vitamin D, both essential in bone strengthening. They contain vitamin A and beta-carotene, antioxidants that reduce harmful free radicals in the blood that can lead to cellular damage.  Consequently, tomatoes may help to ward off age related diseases such as atherosclerosis and diabetes.  The niacin, folate, and vitamin B6 in tomatoes lower both cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and have been associated with the reduction of heart disease risk. There are also studies that suggest tomatoes can reduce the level of harmful inflammatory cytokines that are associated with the development of chronic degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, cancer, osteoporosis, and heart disease.

A perfectly ripe tomato is still somewhat firm but yielding slightly to the touch; the skin is glossy; and you can easily smell the tomato’s fragrant and fruity scent. There are so many ways to use fresh, juicy, perfectly ripe tomatoes.

Try this recipe this summer for a healthful and light, but tasty and luscious meal that is packed with health benefits, and celebrate tomatoes!

Shakshuka

Source: The Mediterranean Dish

INGREDIENTS

  • Greek extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 green peppers, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tspground cumin
  • Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6 Vine-ripe mixed tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves (about 0.2 ounces or 5 grams)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves (about 0.2 ounces or 5 grams)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in a large cast iron skillet. Add the onions, green peppers, garlic, spices, pinch salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables have softened, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, and sugar. Simmer until the tomato mixture begins to reduce, about 10-12 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking.
  3. Using a wooden spoon, make 6 indentations, or “wells,” in the tomato mixture (make sure the indentations are spaced out). Gently crack an egg into each indention.
  4. Reduce the heat, cover the skillet, and cook on low until the egg whites are set.
  5. Uncover and add the fresh parsley and mint. You can add more black pepper or crushed red pepper, if you like. Serve with warm pitachallah bread,or your choice of crusty bread.

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