Meatless Mondays: Eggs in Purgatory

Don’t waste your time debating the origins of this tomatoey dish—just make it for dinner tonight.

(Photo: Ian Knauer)

Aug 18, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Ian Knauer is a regular contributor to TakePart. He has worked for Gourmet and is the author of the IACP Award–nominated cookbook The Farm.

Why meatless on Mondays? Not only is eating less animal protein a healthy diet choice, but curbing your meat consumption can have a significant environmental impact too. In 2006, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reported that animal agriculture accounted for a full 19 percent of greenhouse gases—more than the transportation sector. Best of all, with recipes like these, going meatless can be a delicious weekly habit.

Here we are in the middle of August, in the heart of tomato season—the time I’ve been waiting for all year. I love tomatoes. You probably do too. We as Americans love tomatoes so much that we demand them year-round, even if they’re flavorless most of the time. We turn a blind eye to slavery on American soil—actual modern-day slavery—so we can eat tomatoes anytime we want. A hamburger without a slice of tomato, even if that tomato is pale and tasteless, is not a hamburger I want.

Now that we’re at the height of tomato season, I am pretty sure that within a month I’ll be so tired of tomatoes that I won’t want them for another eight months. I have been eating them in practically every meal, and I am constantly looking for new and old dishes that use up as many tomatoes as possible.

Still, I have yet to reach my saturation point.

Last week, a farmer friend invited me over for dinner. We had, you guessed it, tomatoes. She simmered them down with an onion and some garlic before gently pouring farm-fresh eggs into the sauce and covering the pan to let them slowly cook through.

Eggs in purgatory is a dish that is so easy and popular that its origins are fuzzy—everyone wants a piece of it. The Italians lay a serious claim. So does Mississippi. So does North Africa and the Middle East, where the dish is called shakshuka. But honestly, who cares where it comes from? It’s a dish of eggs poached in a flavorful tomato sauce—an incredibly delicious meal no matter where you cook and eat it. It’s also a terrific way to use up your heart-of-tomato-season tomatoes.

Eggs in Purgatory

Serves 4


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped
1/2 small fresh hot chile, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
4 large eggs
Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
Fresh bread for serving


Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat until hot. Then stir in the onion, garlic, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, chile, coriander, and cumin. Simmer the sauce, uncovered, until the tomatoes are tender and falling apart and the sauce is slightly thickened. Make 4 divots in the sauce, and crack an egg into each. Cover the skillet, and reduce the heat to very low. Let the eggs cook, covered, until the whites are set and the yolks are still runny, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle the dish with the cilantro and serve with the bread.