Bapa's Chouchouka

Bapa’s Chouchouka

Makes about 2 cups

Chouchouka is a cooked tomato and pepper dish from Israel and North Africa (especially Tunisia) where my father in law is from. Every year at our family summer picnic, a serious competition ensues with a trophy for the winner of the years best Chouchouka. The competition is fierce and I have yet to win.

It’s delicious room temperature piled on baguette or pita bread. It can also be simmered in a frying pan with eggs floating on top or with merguez, a spicy lamb sausage added. 

  • 2 to 3 bell or other meaty sweet peppers of equal weight, roasted* 
  • 4 to 6 Tbls. olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, two minced and two sliced thinly
  • 1 14-oz. can good quality peeled Italian plum tomatoes with juice
  • 1 small spoonful harissa, a North African chili paste, mild to hot depending on your liking or 1 Tbls. smoked paprika and cayenne pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbls. tomato paste (optional)
  • Fresh parsley or cilantro, coarsely chopped

Pour the tomatoes and juice into a bowl and break up the tomatoes with your hands into small pieces. In a skillet just big enough to fit the ingredients with room to simmer, warm the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the minced garlic and stir until wilted. Do Not brown. Add the tomato pieces and their juice into the pan. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.

Peel, seed and devein the peppers and cut them into thin strips 1/4-inch or so. Add the peppers and the sliced garlic to the pan. Allow the sauce to simmer, stirring often for 30 to 45 minutes until it thickens and the oil rises to the top. Stir often. A bit of water can be added to keep it from burning however one of Bapa’s secrets (and please don’t share this) is to allow the sauce to burn “just a bit” for added flavor. Season with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature sprinkled with parsley or cilantro.

Chouchouka with Eggs and Merguez

Serves 4 to 8

  • Double recipe of chouchouka
  • 1 pound merguez sausage, skinned (the eggs are also good with just the Chouchouka)
  • 8 large eggs

Heat a skillet to medium and add merguez breaking up the sausage into small pieces. Fry the sausage until crispy and done. Drain the fat and add the chouchouka to the pan. Gently heat the mixture over medium heat. Stir often and add a bit of water if needed. 

Once hot, break the eggs one at a time into a small dish. Make a dent in the Chouchouka and add an egg. Repeat with remaining eggs placing eggs in their own “nest”. Cover and continue to cook for about 7 to 8 minutes, until the eggs are set. Sprinkle with parsley or cilantro and serve.

Roasting Peppers

Peppers can be roasted over or under any direct heat. You can grill, broil, or use my favorite method, over a gas flame on the stove. I've also done this on an electric burner. If using the oven, set on broil and cover cookie sheets with foil.

Place the peppers over (or under) heat and allow them to blister and char on all sides, top and bottom. Once blackened, place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam or put them in a plastic bag and seal it. Allow to cool enough to handle.

Once cool, peel the peppers. You can use a dull knife to scrape stubborn bits and don't feel that you have to remove all of the skin. Remove stem and seeds. I prefer not to rinse the peppers as you loose some flavor.