Is it technically a shakshuka if there aren't any tomatoes or peppers? I mean, if we can pretend that swiss chard is the base for shakshuka, then butternut squash is acceptable in my book. Yes? Yes. Moving on.
This week has been a test of how good I am at compartmentalizing. The answer is: not very good. I mean, I'm not terrible at it, but I'm certainly not myself with my mom being sick in the hospital. I think M is reacting by not sleeping and tantruming over some truly insane things.
Being a parent is really freaking hard, especially when your mental tank isn't full.
I keep reminding myself that it's not M's job to take care of me emotionally. It's okay for me not to be 100% all the time, but I also can't get mad at him for not somehow divining that I don't have it all together and being on his best behavior.
Anyway, M is fed and clothed and bathed and read to and sung to and danced with and we built the international space station out of blocks, so I think I'm doing okay. And he wolfed down this spicy lamb, chickpea, and butternut squash stew, so he's doing okay too.
A couple of notes about this dish: Use harissa spice instead of harissa paste. Some recipes call for the paste, but it's too spicy for my toddler. Don't be intimidated by the harissa or ras al hanout. Both are spice mixes that combine many of the usual suspects like cayenne, garlic, ginger, coriander, and cumin.
Our harissa is somewhat old, so if you're concerned about the heat level for your family, taste the spice first and then decide how much to use. You can also skip the Aleppo pepper or substitute 1/4 tsp cayenne if you don't have any. I resisted buying Aleppo pepper for a while, but we live near a Penzey's so I finally caved and it's become a staple of our spice rack.
Butternut squash shakshuka
1 large butternut squash (1.5-2 lbs)
2 Tbsp oil
1 large onion, sliced
2 large shallots
2 tsp smoked paprika, divided
1 tsp sea salt, divided
3/4 tsp ras al hanout
1 lb ground lamb
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp fennel seeds
1-2 tsp harissa spice*
1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper*
1 can chickpeas, drained
Feta cheese (optional)
Fresh cilantro (optional)
Naan or pita bread (optional, but not really)
Preheat oven to 400. Trim the top stem of the butternut squash (but not the bottom), split the squash in half, and scoop out the seeds. Place cut side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast until the neck of the squash is fork-tender, about 30 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes and remove the skin (it should slip off easily).
While the squash is roasting, slice and caramelize the onions and shallots in olive oil for about 20 minutes. Set aside half of the onions. To the remaining onions, add 1 tsp of smoked paprika, half of the salt, and the raz al hanout. Saute for 1 minute and add to the blender or food processor.
Add the cooked squash to the blender or food processor with the onions and spices and blend until smooth. Scrape down the sides as needed. Set aside.
Saute the ground lamb over medium heat until no pink remains. Drain the excess oil and liquid. Return to the heat and add the remaining smoked paprika, coriander, cumin, fennel seeds, harissa, Aleppo pepper, and salt. Cook for one minute.
Add the drained chickpeas and pureed squash to the cooked lamb and stir to combine. Heat through over medium low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning.
Make 5 holes in the squash and lamb mixture and crack the eggs into the holes. Turn the flame back to medium, cover, and cook until the egg whites are solid and there is just a bit of jiggle in the eggs when you shake the pan.
Garnish with fresh cilantro, feta cheese, the reserved caramelized onions, and a squeeze of lemon (all optional!)
Yield: 5 servings