At Jack’s Wife Freda, Israel meets South Africa.
Inspired by the respective upbringings of the co-owners — and married couple — Maya and Dean Jankelowitz, the eclectic menu is equal parts harissa and peri peri: Chef Julia Jaksic pulls from the Ashkenazi and Sephardic dishes that their families made, as well as South African and Israeli flavors.
Jack’s Wife Freda’s matzo ball soup and peri-peri chicken wings are so popular, the comfort food destination has two locations, in the West Village and SoHo. And now, fans can recreate the magic at home with the restaurant’s first cookbook.
“Jack’s Wife Freda: Cooking From New York’s West Village” (out March 21, $30), written by the Jankelwitzes with recipes by Jaksic, shares how to make items from the restaurants’ menus for breakfast, dinner, drinks and more.
One of the signature dishes shared in the cookbook is their green shakshuka. The traditional Middle Eastern breakfast dish features baked eggs and tomatoes. At Jack’s Wife Freda, it gets a Latin American spin — and its green coloring — with the use of tomatillos, and is served with challah toast.
“Growing up in Israel, Maya tried many different incarnations — each family’s variation subtly different and fiercely defended,” the authors write. “We knew we wanted a shakshuka on our menu and it needed to be spectacular. … We love the fresh zestiness of the tomatillos, the richness of the egg yolks and the doughiness of the toasted challah.”
The owners share the recipe for their nontraditional take on the classic.
Yields 2 quarts sauce, roughly 8 to 10 servings
1 large Spanish onion
6 garlic cloves
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt
1 1⁄2 lb. tomatillos
1 green bell pepper
1 jalapeno chili
1⁄2 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 to 3 tbsp. hot sauce (see recipe), if you like it spicy!
1 to 2 eggs per person
Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
Toasted challah or French brioche, for serving
1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
2. Peel and quarter the onion and place with the garlic cloves in a small baking dish. Drizzle with the olive oil and 1⁄2 tsp. of the salt. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes, or until very soft when pierced with a knife. (The onion and garlic can be prepared ahead of time.)
3. In a large bowl, soak the tomatillos in warm water to peel off the outer husk, then cut in half. Cut the stem from the bell pepper, discard the seeds, and cut into quarters. Also cut the stem from the jalapeno, discard the seeds, and quarter.
4. Place the peeled tomatillos, bell pepper, jalapeno, and cilantro leaves in a food processor with the roasted onion and garlic. Process until very smooth; it will have a salsa-like consistency.
5. Transfer to a medium saucepan. Add the coriander, cumin, and remaining 1 tsp. salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the tomatillo sauce is heated through. Be careful not to cook too long or your sauce will discolor and the taste will change. Add 1 tsp. of hot sauce at a time until you’ve hit your desired spice level.
6. To assemble the shakshuka: Oil a cast-iron pan and set it over low heat. Crack the desired number of eggs into the pan and cover. Allow the eggs to cook sunny-side up until the whites are fully cooked but the yolks remain soft (you can of course cook the yolks through if that is your preference).
7. Once the eggs are cooked, liberally spoon the shakshuka sauce on top of the eggs and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with toasted challah or French brioche.
Yields 1 cup
1 jalapeno chili
1 serrano chili
Optional: 1 habanero chili for extra heat
3 garlic cloves
2 bunches of cilantro, stems removed
1⁄4 cup sunflower seed oil
1. Slice the jalapeno and serrano chilies into 1⁄4- or 1⁄2-inch rings, including the seeds. (For an extra-spicy hot sauce, slice and add the habanero.)
2. Put the chilies into a blender with the garlic cloves and cilantro.
3. Add 1/4 cup water and the oil and blend on high speed for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the mixture is smooth and consistent. Season with salt and additional water if the mixture is too thick.
IF YOU GO
Jack’s Wife Freda Cafe Takeover, featuring treats and book signings with co-owners Maya and Dean Jankelowitz and chef Julia Jaksic, is March 25 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at McNally Jackson | 52 Prince St., 212-274-1160, mcnallyjackson.com | FREE