February Ingredient: Zhoug
Zhoug, Zkhug, Zchouk, Z’hug, Zkhug, Schug
No matter how you pronounce it or which way you spell it, everyone agrees that the Yemenite chili paste known as zhoug is an indispensible part of Israeli cuisine.
Originating from the Yemenite Jews who emigrated to Israel in 1948, zhoug is the “Israeli national chili paste” and “an official component of the famous pita with falafel and of shawarma”, write Ottolenghi and Tamimi in Jerusalem: A Cookbook
Joan Nathan, in her book The Foods of Israel Today describes it “as Israeli as catsup is American”.
Zhoug is thought to have health benefits for the immune system and the stomach but the real reason you’ll fall in love with it is its versatility and flavor.
If you are familiar with the term gremolata, a fresh mixture of lemon zest, garlic, and parsley served alongside a braised veal dish called Osso Bucco, consider zhoug the Middle Eastern equivalent of that, adeptly pointed out in the headnote of the recipe in the “Jerusalem” cookbook.
The basic ingredients are cilantro, parsley, garlic, and hot peppers – either jalapeno or serrano, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Many recipes also include cardamom, cumin and even lemon juice. The proportions vary from one clove of garlic in “Jerusalem” to a whole head in other recipes. So this is definitely a recipe you should vary to your personal tastes.
How to Make Zhoug:
The recipe is on page 301 in the cookbook. Here are some links to other variations:
From our very own Hannah Cordes of the blog Blue Kale Road:
From our very own Emily Swantner of the Epicurean Odyssey:
Here Ana Sortun, chef of Oleana in Cambridge, MA adds pumpkin seeds and sherry vinegar to the mix:
This version uses a whole pound of the peppers – whoa! – from “The Field Guide to Herbs and Spices” by Aliza Green
February Zhoug Recipes from the Cookbook Include:
Sabih, page 91: This is a quintessential street food in Israel, originating with Iraqi Jews. It marries hard-boiled eggs, eggplant, chopped salad all piled on a pita and glued together with zhoug and tahini sauce
Cannellini and lamb soup page 135: Zhoug is offered as an option for topping the soup – I would say it’s mandatory. It really finishes the flavor layers of the soup along with some fresh squeezes of lemon
Lamb shawarma page 210-211: Though not listed, zhoug is a perfect accompaniment to your final presentation of your shawarma on the pita.
If you are not a lamb eater, here is an alternative approach using chicken from Ottolenghi’s website:
Falafel page 98-99: The book says it was actually the Yemeni Jews that set up the first falafel shops in Israel so of course zhoug is one of the necessary ingredients.
Zhoug is also wonderful as a topping or marinade for meat, chicken or fish, a topper for hummus, soups, yogurt sauce – the uses are only limited by your imagination.
Welcome to Tasting Jerusalem
If you’re new to the group, here are our “rules” (there really aren’t any except to cook and share your experiences.)
- How often will we cook: We’ll pick a new set of recipes monthly to allow us all to fit in the cooking when we can and to find any ingredients that might not be available at your typical grocery store stop.
- Do I need to cook all the recipes?: We offer up several recipes to fit your taste buds, menus, schedules – cook as many or as few as you desire. But once you start cooking from this book, you probably won’t stop!
- What do I need to participate: Jerusalem: A Cookbook Plus an interest in cooking, willingness to try new flavors, and an electronic device that communicates via the Internet. We will always post the month’s information in a blog post via omgyummy.com so you can subscribe to Beth’s blog to be guaranteed to receive it or just check in frequently via the Facebook page or Twitter hashtag #TastingJrslm
- How to share what you cook: Tasting Jerusalem is open to anyone. You do not have to be a blogger or food professional of any sort. But if you have a camera, we encourage you to share photos of your dishes on Twitter or the Facebook page or Instagram, using the hashtag #TastingJrslm – we all love to see the results of your kitchen adventures. New to these types of social media? Just drop me an email beth (at) omgyummy (dot) com – I’ll be glad to help you get started.
- What recipes can be published and how to publish: We expect to cook through most, if not all, of the recipes in the cookbook over time. As such, for those of us blogging or writing about our experiences in any way, it’s important that we don’t include the recipe in our blog posts, unless Ten Speed Press has approved its use. The goal of the group is to learn together and enrich our experience using this cookbook, not create an online version of it. We are in touch with Ten Speed Press to find out which recipes we can post. For an example of another group that writes about their cooking but doesn’t post each recipe, please visit French Fridays with Dorie. If you legitimately change a recipe, rewrite the headnote and instructions, and choose to share it, please say you’ve adapted it, giving credit to the source including a link to purchase the cookbook.
- What if I have questions? Sarene and I will be monitoring the Facebook page and Twitter hashtag #TastingJrslm almost continuously so just leave us a note there. If you see a question and know the answer, jump on in before us. Part of the fun of the group will be each of us sharing our own knowledge, perspectives and ideas.
- What to include if you write a blog post: If you do post about what you cook, please let us know – we will link to it. And feel free to post it on the Facebook page and Twitter with the #TastingJrslm hashtag. We’d also appreciate it if you would include this verbiage in the context of your post:
“Tasting Jerusalem is a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ten Speed Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to omgyummy.com, following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, liking our Facebook page or joining our Google+ Community and finally checking out all of our groups’ dishes on Pinterest.”