Middle Eastern Zhoug

Middle Eastern food has been on my mind for some time now. Thoughts of kebabs, Lebanese garlic sauce with roasted chicken, ajvar with anything, and kofta with fresh pita bread. You can see, I was up for making pretty much anything, but instead I wanted to make something for my wife, something she has never had in her lifetime. I will get into that story another time, but this one involves a condiment if you will, a relish possibly, or maybe we can just settle on calling this Middle Eastern yumminess. It’s called zhoug. Call it amazing. Call it fresh, mildy spicy, and call it full of great flavor.

Middle Eastern Zhoug Recipe
(Pictured above: Fresh falafel with Zhoug for its companion)
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I think of zhoug like I think of a chimichurri sauce, or maybe even a harissa. Simple ingredients yielding a perfect balance of herbal heat, a balance that just goes great with pretty much anything you put it on. Flatbreads to roasted chicken, even grilled vegetables; zhoug is here to please and you can mark my words on that. With that said, I am curious how you will use zhoug.

Let’s get started.

(Makes about 2 1/2 cups)

Ingredients: [Print this Recipe]

  • 20 jalapeño peppers, stems removed, rough chop
  • 1 bunch of fresh cilantro, washed
  • 1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, washed
  • 5 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds, toasted, and crushed
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil, plus 1 tbsp

You have a couple of options when making zhoug. Your first option is to use a large pestle and mortar and grind everything into your paste, or do as I do and add everything into a large food processor.

So do just that, add everything with the exception of the additional tablespoon of olive oil into a food processor, and pulse down into a course paste.

Transfer the zhoug into a large mason jar, or other glass jar, drizzle the tablespoon of olive oil on top, seal, and place in the refrigerator for up to a couple of weeks (if it lasts that long).

Ingredients for making Zhoug

I’m not kidding when I say how wonderful the flavors are. You get that great herbal earthiness from the cilantro and parsley, with the subtlety from the cumin and caraway, and believe it or not, but you would think with all of those jalapeño peppers it would have this crazy amount of heat, well, it doesn’t, but it does play perfectly with the combination of ingredients.  Zhoug is one of these sauces, or condiments, or whatever you want to define it’s texture, that goes well with anything.

Some ideas to use zhoug are to use it as a spread for sandwiches, a mix into a salad, toss in some warm pasta, a dip for vegetables or falafel in my picture, or heck, even soups. The possibilities are endless, and hence another reason to make zhoug. Give it a shot, I’m sure you will love it!

Hasselback Potatoes

My wife and I love potatoes, and as a matter of fact, I do not think I know anyone that does not like them. The potato is so diverse. You can make french fries, Irish champ or Irish Colcannon, or heck, even my fan favorites, loaded potato skins. It seems as though the possibilities are endless when it comes to creating something from a potato, and that is one of the reasons I enjoy cooking with them. They are not only cheap, but they are very satisfying and comforting.

Hasselback Potatoes Recipe
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Last weekend was so nice in Wisconsin, it almost felt like spring weather in February, and let me tell you that is very unusual. With that said, there was no doubt that I was going to fire up the grill, and hang outside while the coals heated up. It is not often that I fire up some steaks, but after polling my kids, they all seemed excited by the fact that we were going to have steak for dinner, and I will admit, I was excited as well. The steaks needed a good side to go with them, and as I initially thought of making the classic baked potato or twice baked potato, I decided instead to introduce everyone to classic hasselback potatoes.

Lets get started on making these hasselback potatoes and you will see how easy they are to make, and also how sexy they turn out when served on a plate.

Ingredients: [Print this Recipe]

  • 3 Russet potatoes, cleaned, skin on
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 3 tbsp fine bread crumbs
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp rosemary, finely chopped

To each potato, using a sharp chef’s knife, begin making about 1/4 inch slices, working your knife all the way near the bottom of the potato, but not slicing all of the way through. If it help you, can you lay out two chopsticks, placing the potato in between the chopsticks, and using them as your guide. Make your slices on each potato. Think of this as practicing your knife skills. Take your time and get as precise as you can. Do this for each potato.

Melt three tablespoons of butter, then add in the olive oil. Mix well.

Ingredients for making hasselback potatoes

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Add the potatoes to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and with a spoon, begin drizzling the butter and olive oil mixture into the gaps of every potato. You will want to be sure that every potato gets a generous amount of the melted butter. Shower the potatoes with the salt and pepper.

Add the potatoes in the preheated oven and cook for 45 minutes.

About 40 minutes into the cooking process, add the parsley, minced garlic, rosemary, and breadcrumbs, a pinch of salt and pepper, and give a good stir. Melt the additional three tablespoons of butter, and add the butter to the breadcrumb mixture.

After 45 minutes, remove the potatoes as they should be fork tender and already looking delicious. Spread the breadcrumb mixture on top of each potato.

Preheat your broiler to 425 degrees.

Add the potatoes back into the oven, under the broiler, for about 5 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are a golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve.

Your end result is a really great looking hasselback potato, and within each sliver, is a perfect bite. Balanced with the rosemary and garlic, and the delicious butter, you get a nice crunchy exterior along with the soft interior. Nothing could have been better to serve with the grilled steaks.

I am not sure what was the star of the dinner, was it the hassleback potatoes, or was it the steak? Whatever the case, the pairing was super delicious, and the leftover hasselback potatoes made a great fritatta the following day. Hope you enjoy.