Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

S’CHUG, or

Many of my Esteemed Readers will be unfamiliar with shakshuka, a Middle Eastern egg dish that is nevertheless growing in popularity here in the States. It’s a staple in Israel, where it has become a ubiquitous offering at hotel breakfasts (because eggs!) as well as a beloved evening meal.

Relatively easy to make, shakshuka consists simply of eggs poached in a simmering sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers, and onion. There are variations aplenty, depending on what else you might throw into the pan: cheese, beans, you name it. The dish is usually served right out of the deep skillet in which it is prepared.

My experience with shakshuka is mostly limited to the visit we made to Israel four years ago... and that’s strange, because it’s really damned tasty. I may have to whip up a batch at home...

...especially because I just made a pile of the perfect condiment to accompany it: s’chug.

WTF is s’chug? you ask. Variously spelled סחוג, schüg, skhug, shoug, or zhug, it’s a Yemenite concoction of chili peppers, parsley, cilantro, garlic, and spices that goes really well with shakshuka and other Middle Eastern goodies like hummus. You can find it in some Middle Eastern groceries - Sabra (the hummus guys) make a really good one that is available in both both red and green versions. Think of it as the Yemenite version of Morocco’s harissa.

I’ve had a little trouble sourcing my s’chug lately, since the nearby Persian grocery that used to stock it no longer carries it. But that’s no problem, since it’s easy and economical to make my own... especially since one of the Minyan Ladies gifted me with a whole sackful of fresh home-grown jalapeños from her garden. (Fresno or Serrano peppers would also work just fine.)

Homemade s’chug: the perfect way to use a whole lotta jalapeños. This stuff will grow hair on your chest... and possibly your tongue.

Here’s the recipe I used - it’s from Michael Solomonov’s brilliant cookbook Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking.

20 Serrano (or Fresno or jalapeño) peppers, stems removed
1 cup fresh parsley leaves
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
4 garlic cloves, peeled
Juice of one lemon
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp ground cardamom
1 cup vegetable oil (I used about half that amount)

Take the peppers, parsley, cilantro, garlic, lemon juice, coriander, and cardamom and pulse in a food processor until you get a coarse paste. Scrape into a bowl and drizzle in the oil. Keeps for up to one month tightly sealed and refrigerated.

[Another recipe - from Saveur magazine - is here. ]

Is this stuff piquant?

Aw, hells, yes. It’s ridiculously spicy, and yet it doesn’t overwhelm. Packed with flavor, s’chug will put the shock in your shakshuka.

I’m going to try it out with an omelet. Pray for me, dear readers... and for my kishkes.

Postscriptum: Hot as a bastard, but delicious with that omelet. Next up: hummus!

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