Last Friday, we invited our good friends over for a last minute casual dinner. I had just plucked a bushel of the best tomatoes from the garden and couldn’t wait to share them with friends. Enter Luke and Michelle. Our friends who, based on appearance and careers alone, are way cooler than my husband and me–damn them! Not to mention, they’re talented, fun, great travel companions, and incredibly down to earth–damn them again!
For this non-occasion occasion, I decided to cook one of my favorite dishes for summer entertaining: The Berber Omelet. Now, don’t let the name throw you. Eggs are about the only thing this “omelet” has in common with the French breakfast dish. A Berber omelet is basically a tagine full of poached eggs in a garlicky tomato sauce doctored up with other fresh herbs and a Thai chili for some spice. Nothing is easier with more delectable results – I’m serious. Just serve it with a salad and some crusty bread and you’re done! On this warm, summer evening it was the perfect laid-back way to enjoy time with our friends. We ate our meal and sipped our wine outside by the fireplace while we chatted about life–the perfect peaceful ending to a busy week.
Berber Omelet à la Valerie
Adapted from Peggy Markel
Peggy’s original recipe is quite obviously Moroccan. This is an adaptation using what I had in my pantry and garden. Basically, I ended up using a single chili pepper and a small zucchini I harvested when I collected my tomatoes. The zucchini added a really nice crunch to the dish and the chili had great spice (though I’m not exactly sure it qualifies as Moroccan).
In our class, Peggy taught us to grate the tomatoes using a box grater. This gives the sauce a great consistency. However, for this version (mostly because I was pretty short on time) I just washed my tomatoes, then tossed them in my Vitamix blender for a quick spin. It turned out just as delicious and was so much easier. Plus, I didn’t end up with half the tomato and its skin left in my hand. You can find Peggy’s original recipe here. It’s a total classic. I mean, if Ruth Reichl is a fan, then you should be, too. That said, here is my take on Peggy’s Berber Omelet.
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for garnish
8 large tomatoes, quartered
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 summer squash, diced
1 Thai chili pepper, chopped in rounds
2 tablespoons parsley, plus 1 teaspoon for garnish
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
8 eggs (about 2 eggs/person served)
8 basil leaves torn in pieces for the garnish.
In your blender or food processor, pulse tomatoes until gritty in texture – be carful not to over blend. You should have sauce, not soup. In a large tagine or heavy bottomed saucepan on medium-high heat, add olive oil and let sit until heated. Then add the garlic, pepper, and squash. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until the garlic becomes fragrant but not brown, then add the tomatoes. Add bay leave, parsley, salt and pepper.
Cover and simmer all ingredients for about 10 minutes.
Crack the eggs in individual bowls and drop them, one by one, into the tomato sauce inside the tagine. Cover and cook until the eggs are cooked but slightly runny inside, another 5 minutes or so. Add basil, parsley, sea salt, and remove the bay leaves. Drizzle with good quality olive oil and serve out of the tagine tableside.