The local white squash, also known by its Arabic name kara, is a member of the gourd family which also counts acorn squash, Tripoli pumpkin, and Jack O’ Lantern amongst its members. Unlike the common pumpkin, which can last all winter thanks to its thick orange skin, the thin-skinned kara is a summer squash. It is indigenous to the region and has been appreciated by local residents for generations. Its mild and fresh flavor is reminiscent of zucchini and pumpkin, and it has a tender flesh. In Arab cooking it is usually stuffed with meat and rice, like a zucchini, or cooked with vegetables and bulgur.
Kara can be found at green grocers and markets in Arab villages and cities from early spring until early summer. The best kara are sold at the vegetable stalls near Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City, as well as in Acre, Nazareth, Jaffa, and Haifa. Look for ones that are palm-sized and light with smooth skins that are unbroken and leave them on the counter, not in the refrigerator. When preparing stuffed kara, hollow out the squash and lightly scrape the outer layer using a serrated knife or a peeler. For cooked kara, make sure to wash the skin well and remove any fuzz.
Gourds are described in the Quranas God’s gift. Spending most of the season picking fruits and vegetables in the field, the local farmers preferred light seasonal dishes that require little preparation time and effort. The following recipe is simple, quick and suitable for the summer, when kara and zucchini are in season. The dish can be prepared over a campfire in the fields and served with a seasonal vegetable salad alongside a refreshing bowl of yogurt or a slice of jibneh cheese. The original recipe does not contain eggs, which were later added as a family variation by Amir Ounallah to the classic shakshuka.
About the Farm: Bustana, the first organic farm of its kind in the Arab community, is situated in the town of Iksal, in the Jezreel Valley. The farm was founded by Amir Ounallah, who has a background in high tech and descends from a long line of farmers and wanted to preserve his family’s agricultural tradition and focus on the cultivation of seasonal organic crops.
- 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 green chili pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
- 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 3-4 large zucchini, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 3-4 (1.3 – 1.5lb) baladi/ heirloom tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- Ground black pepper
- 6 eggs
- Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan over high heat and fry the chopped onion until softened, about 3 minutes. Low the heat to medium-high, add the chile and zucchini and fry until softened, about 10 minutes.
- Add the garlic and chopped tomatoes, season with a little salt and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add tomato paste and, if the sauce is too thick, a little water. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Reduce to medium heat and cook for 5 minutes.
- Stir in the remaining olive oil, use the back of a wooden spoon to make 6 small indentations in the sauce, then crack an egg into each one. Season with a little salt, cover and cook over medium heat until the egg whites are set but the yolk remains jammy and soft, 3 minutes.
- Serve with a warm taboon bread.