Culinary traditions that come from hot places tend to lean into spice. Hot peppers do well in hot climates, of course, but they also serve to cool the body and excite the taste buds when heavy, creamy flavors would do nothing but weigh you down. Now’s a great time to make the most of them here in hotter-than-blue-blazes Texas – they’re zesty and plump, filled with capsaicin, the chemical that gives them a kick. Zhug – a chunky Yemenite hot sauce that’s just divine dolloped on fish, veggies, beans, or felafel – is one of our favorite ways to get our Scoville on. Make it in a mortar and pestle if you have one to keep the flavors bright.
- 1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 3 green cardamom pods, small internal seeds only
- 4 medium cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 4 to 6 fresh serranos or jalapeños
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- Small handful each of parsley and cilantro leaves and fine stems
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
1. Place coriander, cumin and cardamom seeds in a small dry skillet and toast over medium heat just until fragrant. Cool.
2. Place spices in a mortar and pestle and grind into a powder using a firm, circular motion (use a spice grinder if you don’t have a mortar and pestle). Add garlic, chilies, salt, and pepper, and pound into a rough paste (pulse in food processor if you don’t have a mortar and pestle).
3. Add cilantro and parsley one small handful at a time and continue pounding into a rough paste. (By the time you’re done, there should be no pieces of chilies or herbs larger than 1/8 inch remaining.)
4. Pounding constantly, slowly drizzle in olive oil to form an emulsion. Season to taste with more salt. Zhug can be served immediately or stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several weeks.