“Fresh Ontario produce – in the winter months?” I know I know, it sounds impossible but here in Ontario, we are lucky to be served by the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers (OGVG), a not-for-profit organization, formed in 1967, representing approximately 220 members who grow greenhouse seedless, mini and cocktail cucumbers; red, yellow, orange and specialty peppers; tomatoes on the vine, beefsteak and specialty tomatoes on over 2,500 acres across the province from Windsor to Niagara and as far north as Ottawa. Mostly located less than one day’s drive from the majority of markets they serve in Canada and United States, the majority of these greenhouses are family-owned and have been in existence for several generations.
OGVG growers use hydroponic technology, computerized climate control and integrated pest management (using good bugs to eat the bad bugs) in order to ensure their vegetables are fresh and nutritious. The controlled greenhouse environment enables them to grow a uniform product in a nutrient-rich water solution that both minimizes waste and maximizes yield and quality. The growers also use bumblebees to naturally pollinate tomatoes and pepper crops.
So yes, during the cooler months, there is more local produce available than you might think, precisely thanks to the OGVG (something that I’ve made sure to look for in my organic produce deliveries and in the supermarket – I love that most places tell you where your produce is from these days!) and while I do always have good quality tinned tomatoes and roasted peppers on hand, sometimes for a recipe, only fresh produce will do. When I was asked if I’d like to try one of the OGVG new spring-themed recipes featuring fresh cucumbers, peppers or tomatoes, I was happy to see shakshuka on the list as it’s something I love to order when I go out to brunch but that I have never made, for some reason (especially now I know it’s so very easy!).
A dish of eggs gently poached in a spiced tomato sauce, this is the perfect brunch, lunch or breakfast-for-dinner meal (so, really, anytime!). It’s made with fresh tomatoes so they don’t completely collapse when they cook so make sure to choose firmer tomatoes than you might for, say a salad or a sandwich. I also added a touch of liquid to my pan when I was cooking – even at a low temperature, most of the liquid evaporated before I put the eggs in so I added around 1/3 cup water and it was the perfect amount of “sauciness” to place the eggs in. Next time I might put a lid on my pan as it cooks to avoid all the lovely juices evaporating.
This was a perfect Sunday night dinner and now I know how easy it is, I will definitely be making it again, most likely for brunch. By the time the coffee’s brewed, you’d have a fabulous, fresh meal to go with it!
Spicy Tomato Shakshuka
These Middle Eastern–style eggs are a nice addition to a brunch, or serve them for a quick and delicious dinner any night of the week.
- 2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp (5 mL) paprika
- 1 tsp (5 mL) ground cumin
- 1 tsp (5 mL) salt
- 1/4 tsp (1 mL) hot pepper flakes
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) tomato paste
- 5 cups (1.25 L) coarsely chopped Ontario Greenhouse Roma tomatoes
- 8 eggs
- 1/3 cup (75 mL) crumbled feta cheese
- 2 tbsp (30 mL) finely chopped fresh cilantro
- 6 small pita breads, warmed
- Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).
- Heat oil in high-sided ovenproof skillet set over medium heat; cook onion, garlic, paprika, cumin, salt, hot pepper flakes and cayenne, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes or until vegetables start to soften.
- Stir in tomato paste; cook for 1 minute.
- Add tomatoes; cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes or until thickened.
- Using back of spoon, make 8 divots in the sauce mixture; crack an egg into each divot. Baste each egg with a little of the tomato sauce.
- Transfer to oven; cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until eggs are soft-cooked or until desired doneness.
- Garnish with feta and cilantro.
- Serve with pita bread.
- Chef's Tip: Substitute parsley for cilantro if desired. Use smoked paprika for more intense flavour.
Disclosure: I received compensation from the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers in exchange for this post. All opinions are 100% my own and this post was not reviewed prior to publication.