Thursday, February 9, 2012

Spicy Israeli Zhoug


When my husband, Bob, was in high school he spent a year living in Israel. His vibrant host mom, Sara, is of Yemenite descent - her father actually walked to Israel from Yemen in the early 1900s! - and she is an amazing cook. Bob was quite fortunate to enjoy her wide repertoire of dishes and was very happy to introduce me to her. Zhoug is one of her staples.

Zhoug is a fiery, green condiment that is full of flavor and spice. Big bunches of parsley, cilantro, green chiles, garlic and olive oil are whizzed together, creating a versatile relish that will have your taste buds dancing and your sinuses clearing. Once I discovered it, I never looked back.


I have since played around with many zhoug recipes, all with cilantro, some with parsley, and some even with cumin and cardamom. After much fun experimenting, I've settled on a simple recipe that has become one of my pantry staples.

I love bringing home beautiful bouquets of parsley and cilantro. I plunk the herbs in a jar of water on the kitchen counter to keep them fresh, making it easy to snip off some leaves when needed (and it ensures that nothing gets forgotten in the bottom of my crisper drawer).


I’m one of those who doesn’t care for the taste of cilantro leaves – believe me, I’ve tried, as it is abundant in cuisines I adore like Thai, Indian and Mexican. That said, I have found when cilantro is pureed the flavor changes. Thus, I do love cilantro in zhoug (and in Indian chutneys). And either way you just can’t beat the heavenly scent of cilantro!

Zhoug is addictive. It can be dolloped on chicken soup, jazz up a sandwich, be mixed with sour cream for a zesty dip, accompany grilled fish or enhance scrambled eggs. We even serve it with our gefilte fish (alongside the traditional horseradish) at our Passover seders – a real blending of cultures!


(A winter cold that has been going around finally snuck up on me and for the past few days I’ve vacillated between wanting warm, comforting bowls of cream of wheat and hot, spicy bowls of soup. A spoonful of zhoug stirred into a steaming bowl of egg-lemon soup perked me right up and got me breathing again.)

Zhoug
Makes 2 cups or about 1 pint

4 ounces green chiles (I use Serranos)
1 head garlic
1 bunch fresh parsley **
1 bunch fresh cilantro **
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or more to taste)
A few grinds fresh pepper
Olive oil

Cut the stems off the chiles and roughly chop them. Put them in the bowl of a food processor. Crush 6 cloves of garlic and add to the bowl. Depending upon how much of a garlic lover you are you can up to the whole head - taste as you go and add additional garlic if you desire. Whiz until the chiles and garlic are roughly chopped.

Wash the parsley and cilantro and cut off the stems (save the stems to use in making vegetable or chicken stock). Roughly chop the herbs and add to the bowl. Add 1 teaspoon kosher salt, a few grinds of pepper and a couple pours of olive oil. Pulse until a rough paste is formed. Pause to inhale the fresh scent and to feel your taste buds tingle.

Taste for garlic, salt and pepper and add more if needed. If the mixture seems dry add a little more olive oil. Spoon the zhoug in to a clean jar, drizzle a little olive oil on top and cover. The zhoug will keep in the fridge for 1 month. As you use it, you can keep adding a little drizzle of oil to cover the top.

** You can be flexible with the proportion of parsley and cilantro you use. If you do not care for cilantro, feel free to use more parsley than cilantro or leave it out entirely and use only of parsley. Or, if you are crazy about cilantro, leave out the parsley. Just be sure to adjust the amounts to equal 2 large bunches.

28 comments:

  1. I'd never thought of it, but zhoug with gefilte fish makes so much sense! A perfect blend of Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Thanks so much for the terrific suggestion.

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  2. Would love this in chicken soup or slathered on bread. Like you I am not a huge fan of cilantro leaves I have never processed them will definitely give this a try.

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  3. I love this recipe, going in my book. There is a similar condiment that is made in my family for generations, but without the cilantro. Can it be frozen (lets say during the garden season I had a lot of herbs)?

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    1. Thank you, Marina! I haven't frozen zhoug before, but I think it would freeze well if it was well sealed. I may try freezing some from the batch I just made to check it out. How cool that you have a similar family recipe!

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  4. Mmmm, I am definitely going to make a batch of this. I can see how a spoonful would enhance just about everything! I'm also wondering whether it would freeze well.

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    1. I hope you enjoy it, rowdy! I haven't frozen zhoug before, but I think it would freeze well. I'll give it a try and see.

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  5. Oh I love making these too, Hannah.I make them Indian style with all your ingredients except the parsley and its a weekly staple in our house too :)It gives a nice kick to any meal instantly.Will try it with parsley and coriander next time :)

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    1. I hope you enjoy the zhoug, Soni! You must have some delicious Indian variations.

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  6. This is sooooo right up my husband's alley! He loves spicy food! I'll keep this in mind!

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    1. I hope your husband enjoys the zhoug, Brooke! Definitely takes care of a spicy craving.

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    2. How do you pronounce "Zhoug?" Is it "zoog?" I just recently learned I was pronouncing "Kombucha" wrong and now nothing I know is right anymore...

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    3. In Hebrew, it's pronounced "s'choog" where the "ch" is like a light throat-clearing sound. Most people in the US say "zoog." Now, how do you pronounce "kombucha" correctly? I drink gallons of it so I should at least be saying it the right way (maybe someday I'll attempt to make it).

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  7. I've never tried, much less heard of, zhoug but it looks fantastic. I always have cilantro and parsley on hand (and like you I once didn't like cilantro much but it's grown on me). Adding serrano chiles to tomorrow's grocery list!

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    1. I'm glad to hear you enjoy cilantro more now, Sara - there's hope for me!

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  8. Oooh, Hannah, this sounds so good! It reminds me of Paula Wolfert's Herb Jam from Genius Recipes, but this one has a kick to it. Stirring this into egg-lemon soup sounds amazing. Hope you are feeling better!

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    1. Brianne, I'll have to check out Paula Wolfert's jam - love her recipes.

      The cold is dragging on a bit (argh!), but I'm feeling much better today. Thank you! :)

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  9. I had never had zhoug before moving to Israel and now I absolutely adore the stuff. We always have a jar in the fridge and I love that this Yemenite staple is so abundant here. I'll have to try making my own - thanks for the recipe!

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    1. My pleasure, Katherine! I'm sure you've had some amazing varieties of zhoug in Israel. You can make red zhoug, too, with red chiles. Glad to hear you're hooked on it, too!

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  10. I have never heard of zhoug before but I think it is looking like it could be love at first taste. Love all the flavours & I am firmly on the love side of the fence when it comes to coriander. Most definitely adding this to my "to do'' list :)

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    1. Oh, I do hope you'll like it, Mairi - zhoug is a wonderful use for fresh coriander and you must have some popping up with the arrival of summer.

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  11. This sounds amazing. Paul's always after me to find more cilantro recipes! He loves loves loves it. I'll have to surprise him with zhoug!

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    1. Thank you, Lauren! I do hope Paul enjoys the zhoug (and you, too!). This is a great one for a cilantro lover.

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  12. Love the sound of this recipe!!! My refrigerator needs a big bottle of this :)

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    1. I wish I could drop a jar of zhoug off for you, Chinmayie!

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  13. I have to tell you I made this last week and had it to jazz up a savory bean pie that I made. It was delicious! I used jalapenos there being no serranos at the store (did you cause a run on them?). Thanks!

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    1. I'm so happy you liked the zhoug, Sara! Sorry to deplete the serranos... :) Jalapenos are a great pepper to use - I've made zhoug with them before. Sounds like a delicious pairing with with your bean pie.

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