OK, so maybe “homemade condiment” doesn’t sound all that simple to you, but… be brave. If you read along on this blog, you’ve come across my recipe for Harissa, an easy-to-make homemade condiment, which stores weeks in the frig and can turn anything from ordinary scrambled eggs to basic soup into something spectacular in the blink of an eye. Well, now—thanks to an article in the August issue of FEAST Magazine (page 56)—there’s a new favorite from-scratch condiment in the Green Gal kitchen… Z’hug. Huh?
The award-winning author and photographer at aperiodictable.com Shannon Weber has shared this “herbal hot sauce” from the Middle East with FEAST readers (And haven’t I always insisted FEAST is a must-read in your kitchen library??). So take a peek at FEAST and the Z’hug recipe there; then, check out Shannon Weber’s blog and then… make this dish! I’ve created some Z’hug-inspired recipes to get you started…
Shannon Weber’s Z’hug (with slight Green Gal variations)
- One and a half teaspoons whole cumin seed
- One-half teaspoon whole caraway seed
- Four cardamom seeds (We love cardamom in my house, so we more than doubled this, using four whole pods of seeds.)
- One teaspoon kosher salt (I substituted coarse sea salt with no problem.)
- One-half teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- A “fat” pinch of clove powder
- Four cloves of garlic, minced
- Six “bird’s eye” peppers (which are not at my farmers market, so I opted for a mix of two very hot ghost peppers and three milder jalapeños.)
- Two cups fresh cilantro leaves, lightly packed, rough chopped
- One and one-half cups fresh parsley leaves, lightly packed, rough chopped
- Two-thirds cup olive oil
- Dry toast the cumin, caraway and cardamom seeds in a small cast iron skillet until fragrant, shaking frequently. Crush with your mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder.
- Put the ground spices into the bowl of a food processor along with the rest of the ingredients, except the olive oil. Pulse until ground; then, pour in the olive oil in a steady stream through the tube while still pulsing. You will have a chunky, brilliant green sauce at the end.
One of the things I found delightful about Z’hug is how well it pairs with things sweet and things creamy, for instance honey and cheese….
Slice about five cups of your favorite ripe tomatoes into a pretty bowl. We used Cherokee Purples, Brandywines and a nice golden variety. You can stop there or add sweet red bell pepper strips, some red onion rings, chopped avocado and diced cucumber, but we liked just the tomatoes for this recipe. Combine one heaping tablespoon of Z’hug with a quarter cup fresh lemon juice and a quarter cup quality raw honey, and maybe a dash of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Toss with the tomatoes and let “marry” about 15 minutes. Then serve.
Appetizer with Cream Cheese, Z’hug and Honey
This is the simplest recipe of all—take a pretty platter or shallow bowl, place a good goat cheese or cream cheese block in the center. Put some Z’hug on one side and some good honey on the other. People can spoon as little or as much sweet to hot to creamy as they desire. Serve with crispy light crackers or bruschetta.
I always like to include at least one recipe with ground cherries when they are in season. They are beautiful and sweet little fruits that are so often missed by the general public. Farmers Markets are the only place I’ve ever seen them. And what a shame! I’ve used them in the Green Gal favorite Rhubarb and Ground Cherry Chutney and, of course, in a pie. But here, I’ve paired them with honey and made a syrup. We spread it over French toast, but it would be equally at home over vanilla ice cream or plain yogurt or just about any place syrup is welcome. This sauce is spirited and spicy with lots of fresh ginger and a whole vanilla bean. Heck, you could even throw it in a rum cocktail, I think!
Ground Cherry Syrup with Fresh Ginger and Vanilla Bean
Combine one-half cup of water with one-half cup of honey. Zest in about two to three tablespoon of fresh ginger—we like a lot of ginger in this syrup. Add a split vanilla bean, scraping all the seeds into the mixture and leaving the pod in to simmer then steep. Add one cup hulled and washed ground cherries. Finally add a dash of sea salt. Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer. Continue to cook on low simmer until the mixture has thickened considerably and reduced by about half. You can serve this warm over French toast, at room temperature over pound cake with whipped cream or cold over vanilla ice cream…or however you wish. Really sweet and rich and very different.
Don’t underestimate the power of honey to transform good to great without any effort at all. Case in point: super-sweet heirloom French melons grown by my farmer-friend Keith Biver. Have you ever had a French Melon? Unless you shop at specialty produce stands or famers markets, probably not. They are heirlooms, a close cousin to the more-familiar cantaloupe, but super sweet. Really, you don’t have to do anything to them, just slice and eat. But…. If you find French melons, try this: seed and slice into moon-shaped wedges; top each wedge with several tablespoons of your favorite Greek yogurt (preferably plain), drizzle with your best raw honey and sprinkle with some toasted crushed pistachios and…wait for it… a dash of powdered cumin. Not kidding.