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.)
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
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.