As the days turn colder and grayer, I crave steamy hot, comfort food. In Israel—small, but multi-ethnic—many foods would qualify as comfort food. Shakshuka, an egg dish usually cooked in tomato sauce, is sure to be up there.

Israelis love their sun-kissed tomatoes in any form, and they eat shakshuka for breakfast, lunch or dinner year round. Not only does it bring warm comfort and a bright hint of summer’s sun on a cold, rainy day, shakshuka is the perfectly balanced meal, especially for vegetarians looking for protein sources.

When eaten, as it should be with fresh challah bread, it is a whole meal in a pan:  vegetables, protein, carbs and a bit of good fat. For winter, the vitamin-c loaded tomato is a panacea for winter ailments, which aids iron absorption when cooked in the traditional iron pan.

When I came to the US from Israel almost thirty years ago, Sutton Place Gourmet, Balducci’s predecessor on Foxhall Road in NW DC, carried Israeli tomatoes. I occasionally splurged and bought few tomatoes from the homeland. Their price was exorbitant, especially for someone who was accustomed to buying affordable vegetables and fruit by the kilo. To this immigrant, the local custom of buying a tomato or two at a time seemed so exotic, so American.

Many a summer later and good quality tomatoes are more readily available in the local markets at any season. Still, I make my shakshuka from good quality canned tomatoes, and not just in winter, because they are more likely to have ripened on the vine. That makes a difference in terms of flavor and color.

Like anything in the Middle East, many claim shakshuka as their own. There is some consensus that the origin of shakshuka is from the Tunisian chakchuka, which means mixture. The origin of the word shakshuka in Hebrew is unclear. I understand it as to mix, to scramble.  We call scrambled eggs beitza mekoohskeshet. To shake from fear is in Hebrew leshakshek, which sounds very much like what we do when we shake the egg and tomato mixture with a fork to scramble it.

We can agree then that immigrants from the Arabian Peninsula—including Yemen—and North Africa—Tunisia, Morocco and Libya—brought shakshuka to Israel. It became popular through what we call misadot poalim, or workers’ restaurants: simple restaurants serving basic homemade foods.

Now, many fancy places serving shakshuka, and chefs write about the “ultimate” way to prepare it. Shakshuka preparation even became a science so that we now have Dr. Shakshuka, a Tel Aviv restaurant with all kinds of shakshuka.

There are many variations of the dish. The Tunisian version keeps the eggs intact, cooked on top of the tomato sauce, sunny side up. I grew up on the eggs scrambled in the tomato sauce. Some include sweet pepper in the sauce.  And there are those who do without the tomatoes.

Then there are the spices and herbs. Do you add paprika or Yemenite hawaij? Do you add herbs? I add Yemenite spices, no sweet pepper and no herbs.

On a cold day, the aroma of caramelized onions mixed with the turmeric mixture takes me back home to where the vine-ripe tomato is firm, red and abundant. What else should I expect from a dish that is nutritious, delicious and easy to make?