Thank you AncestryDNA for sponsoring this post, and thank you for reading!

Andrew and I are a family of eaters – the kind of folk that advertise our appetites like actual accolades, that make our dining table a destination, that break for bagels. A seemingly dominant trait irrefutably inherited by our Poe and one we’re sure second babe will carry on with innate finesse, our palates- embodying decades of weekend pastries and weeknight finagling’s, countless coffees, my grandmother’s khoresh and other’s microwaved lamb chops, my mother in law’s famous pumpkin bread, humble gatherings, the infinite penchants of generations before us – delineate us as Dawson’s.

Always looking to expand, a few weeks back Andrew and I were given opportunities to delve further into our derivations, taking DNA tests with AncestryDNA to gain better insight into our originating ethnicities. While I’ve always had a relatively clear view of my background – my mother is Massachusetts’s South Shore, but historically hailing from Eastern Europe, my father immigrated with his family from Iran – minutiae lacked, coupled with Andrew’s nearly blank slate from his closed adoption. Each submitting simple saliva tests, AncestryDNA utilized their advanced autosomal testing technology- combined with advanced DNA science with the world’s largest online family history resource- to estimate our geographical origins and find potential family connections. Expecting nothing more than what we already knew, Andrew and I were both stunned by our results.

European Jewish and Middle Eastern making up the bulk of my background, revelation was found in my paternal-grandmother’s ancestors originating from Southern Europe; a large number of Sephardic Jews immigrating to Greece throughout the Byzantine Empire. Andrew’s outcomes left us effectively floored: Eastern European and European Jewish ethnicity now definitively his own, coupled with an extremely high parent/child connection to his biological father (a connection we’ve effectively chosen to omit for now; Andrew isn’t ready, and may never be ready, for that relationship). By solidifying our geographic origins, we both still feel wholly ourselves, but infinitely more connected to and established in our personal identities, and our distinct identity as a family. Taking cue from traditional cuisine, intermingled with our home’s current palate and dietary style, we felt it only appropriate to bring ourselves, our pasts, and futures to life through a cumulative meal.

This ‘family style’ shakshuka- served family style straight from the cast iron, or made ahead for easy access throughout our busy workweek- is most emblematic of us, one of our favorite meals with an ancestral twist. Though its origin is still widely disputed, shakshuka is thought to have evolved from Middle Eastern and Mediterranean tomato based stews. Paying homage, but with overt Greek influence and more subtle Eastern European Jewish notes, this Low FODMAP rendition is the best shakshuka recipe up our sleeves (yes, we’ve dabbled with a few over the years!). Made with fried Kalamata olives and briny anchovy, intermingled with the more traditional tomato, pepper, cumin and paprika, each bowl bursts with unctuous complexity while remaining familiar and easy. A bright brackishness softened by warming spice, fatty yolk, and a good hunk of bread. We serve ours topped with crumbled feta and jammy soft boiled eggs – less runny than their poached counterparts, having them preprepared allows all-too-necessary convenience – and thick slices of toasty challah for dunking.

So we all have the opportunity to find geographical connection (and hopefully more reason to gather around our tables!) AncestryDNA is hosting their annual Summer Sale. For the next week, you can snag a kit for $59 – you can learn more here!




2 red bell peppers, halved + deseeded
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon anchovy paste
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1 cup pitted green olives, sliced into rings
1 pound cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 cans (28 ounces) diced tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
8 large eggs
½ cup feta cheese, crumbled


Preheat oven to high-broil and line a baking sheet with high-temperature safe parchment paper or foil.

Arrange peppers on baking sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil; broil for 12 minutes, or until peppers are well charred and fork tender. Remove from heat and dice peppers. Set aside.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add olives and stir until they begin to fry, about 5 minutes, then add anchovy paste, cumin, and paprika. Stir in cherry tomatoes and continue to sauté for an additional 5. Tomatoes should be very tender.

Add diced peppers and canned tomatoes then return skillet to a simmer for a final 10 minutes. Transfer prepared shakshuka base to an airtight Tupperware and refrigerate for up to 1 week, or freeze, until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, fill a large pot hallway full of water, then bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add whole eggs and allow to simmer for 7 minutes. Drain water, then immediately transfer eggs to a bowl of ice to cool. Store soft-boiled eggs in an airtight Tupperware for up to one weel, peeling when you’re ready to serve.

To Serve: transfer desired amount of shakshuka base to an appropriately sized skillet (about 1 ½ cups shakshuka per serving – you’ll want the shakshuka to be about 1 inch deep in the skillet). Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then add desired amount of prepared eggs to just rewarm (2 eggs per serving, halved with yolk side up). Remove from heat, and serve in your favorite bowl sprinkled with feta, (about 2 tablespoons per serving). Enjoy!