On my quest to find a recipe for my Italian grandmother’s “eggs and sauce,” as we called it, I found eggs in purgatory, which was not like hers. Then, I found shakshouka and it sounded more like her eggs. At first, I found that it was an Israeli dish, then Moroccan. So this leads me to believe that eggs poached/baked in tomato sauce must be a Mediterranean dish with many variations. I was able to successfully recreate my grandmother’s at home, but then I was curious to try shakshouka.
In NYC, there are a few restaurants who serve it on brunch menus. I visited two: Barbounia on Park Ave South and Balaboosta in Little Italy. In an interview on Clean Plates, Chef Einat Admony of Balaboosta describes her food as “Mediterranean-Middle Eastern, with the addition of my own Israeli soul.” Barbounia describes its food as “modern Mediterranean.” Shakshouka at both restaurants comes in a vegetarian version or with lamb sausage called merguez.
At Barbounia, I got the Moroccan eggs, baked eggs with tomato sauce, paprika & garlic. This dish had a flavor very similar to my grandmother’s egg dish. This dish was absolutely delicious to me, and I scooped up every bit of the tomato sauce with the delicious fresh bread they serve.
At Balaboosta, I got the Shakshouka: Moroccan baked eggs in spicy tomato cazuela, spinach, grilled country bread. I ate this dish on a cold day, and it’s perfect for cold weather. This one is spicier than Barbounia’s, and the sauce is thinner. It tastes different from Barbounia’s and different from my grandmother’s but it is also excellent. I hungrily sopped it up with the country bread.
Which one did I prefer? While both were good and enjoyable in different ways, nostalgia prevails.