by Bridget O’Donnell

To pay homage to National Poetry Month, we introduce the theme of April’s What’s Cooking Blog with an excerpt from John E. Potente’s “Ode to an Egg,” a story in stanzas that’s based on the old nursery rhyme “Humpty Dumpty.”

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,

an egg that was wide and a little bit tall,
not quite so round, with a bulge in his middle,
and a shell that was lavish, but fragile and brittle.
His chest wore a coat, felted smartly in green,
his waist neatly belted, aquamarine.

His trunk was azure with splashes of white
and up on his crown was a cap of snow bright.
Humpty fared well, never one to lament,
surrounding himself with an air of content.
Choosing to welcome guest of all class,
he’d open his arms and greet as they’d pass.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

My deepest sympathies go out to anyone with an allergy or intolerance to eggs, their versatility can make them pretty difficult to avoid. The “incredible, edible egg” (if you remember that ‘80s jingle) is something of a paradox with the capability to fill both artistic and utilitarian functions whether in the shell or on a plate. When they’re not found as a self-contained snack, an addition to a salad, or a stand-alone meal, eggs can be used as a binding agent in both sweet and savory recipes. Eggs can be so much more than Pysanky, omelets, hard or soft boiled, scrambled, in a cup, over-easy, or fried. To reiterate their flexibility, my mini-quiche complimented a variety of fillings with or without crust. And just like that, what almost evolved into a frittata took a spicy turn towards Shakshuka. Shakshuka is a North African dish that’s also commonly served as breakfast in Israel and other Mediterranean countries, but as a fan of breakfast-for-dinner, I highly recommend enjoying this dish any time of day.

Title of Cookbook/Online Recipe: Skakshuka With Feta / 

Author of Cookbook/Recipe: Melissa Clark

What prompted you to check out this cookbook? I saw a picture of this vibrantly colored dish in a magazine, then again on TV;  both times I remember thinking, we might like this. To get a better idea on how to accommodate our taste preferences I compared a few recipes that I found online with the “Vegetable-filled Egg Shakshouka” on pg. 40 in Bilhana: Wholefood recipes from Egypt, Lebanon and Morocco.

What did you like about this cookbook? In general the recipe is easy to adjust. Accommodate individual or household preferences by monitoring the firmness of the eggs and the amount/intensity of the spices added. Cover with a lid and cook entirely on the stovetop, or use a cast iron skillet and finish the dish in the oven, like Melissa Clark’s recipe suggests.

What didn’t you like about this cookbook? Although it won’t go to waste, I’d prefer to make a smaller portion that’s just enough for two people. A 10.5-12 inch skillet yields 4-6 servings, which would be perfect for brunch with friends and family, but for this dish I’d rather not refrigerate leftovers.

The recipe doesn’t suggest alternatives to Harissa paste. Although it’s a characteristic seasoning for the dish, even a mild (store bought) Harissa paste may be too hot or cause heartburn.

Favorite recipe (that you tried from the cookbook): Shakshuka with Feta

Did you alter the recipe or make any substitutions? If so, what were they? Yes.

To make the dish mild, I added some but not all of the spices found in harissa powder. I used significantly less chili powder and about a tablespoon of unseasoned tomato paste. Depending on your preferences, substitute a more subtle/mild (fresh or ground) chili pepper like chipotle for cayenne or Thai. More importantly, you can always add more of the aforementioned, Sriracha and/or Tabasco sauce to individual servings if you enjoy really spicy food.

Other modifications included: 

  • adding turmeric – a personal preference 
  • adding spinach and substituting cilantro for parsley – as suggested in “Best Shakshuka”/ Love and 
  • Serving with rosemary bread and sliced avocado – as suggested in “Bilhana.”

Would you recommend this cookbook/recipe? Yes. Eggs are a quick way to get a little extra protein any time of day.

Mini quiche crust in pan
Ready made mini quiches
Shakshuka pre-bake dish and separate ingredients
Shakshuka pre-baked



Bilhana: wholefood recipes from Egypt, Lebanon, and Morocco / Yasmine Elgharably, Shewekar Elgharably; photographs by Yehia El-Alaily. (pg.40) 

Egg: a culinary exploration of the world’s most versatile ingredient / Michael Ruhlman; photography by Donna Turner Ruhlman. (pg. 77-78)


Best Shakshuka / Jeanine Donofrio, Love and 

Shakshuka With Feta / by Melissa Clark, 

The Bizarre Historical Origins of the Humpty Dumpty Nursery Rhyme / E.L. Hamilton (Feb. 28, 2018), 

Humpty Dumpty, 

Ode to an Egg / by John E. Potente (isbn: 978-0989913614). 

Quick Subject links to the Library catalog:

Cooking (Eggs)

Vega (New Catalog)