When it comes to summer cooking — dressing up wild Alaska seafood and garden vegetables — I'm a fan of simple and fresh flavors that allow the ingredients to shine.
With the start of the fishing season, when the last bits of vacuum-sealed salmon and halibut in the back of the freezer somehow find their way to the front, we all seem to have more than we bargained for. Enter zhoug, a spicy, green herb sauce with origins in the Middle East, currently appearing on restaurant menus all around the country. Think pesto minus the cheese and nuts (although I do sometimes add walnuts or toasted pine nuts for a "meatier" texture).
Zhoug is bright and zingy, with a nice kick from green chilies that goes with almost anything you cook this summer. Serve it with flatbread, grilled fish and other seafood or meats. I like it stirred into vegetable soups like minestrone or smeared on bread for a spicy grilled cheese, stuffed into a quesadilla, or drizzled over soft-scrambled eggs. This tangy sauce is best eaten the day it's made but can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days.
Spicy green zhoug sauce
Makes 1 1/2 cups
4 cups total of fresh herbs and stems such as cilantro, mint, flat-leaf parsley (3 to 4 bunches)
2 to 3 cloves fresh garlic
2 jalapenos or serrano chilies, stems removed (and seeded, if desired, for less heat)
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar (or fresh-squeezed lemon juice)
1 heaping teaspoon ground coriander
1 heaping teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Combine the herbs, garlic, chilies, vinegar, coriander, cumin and salt together in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Blend until ingredients are well combined. Drizzle in olive oil and blend until smooth. Taste and add more salt or vinegar, as desired.
If you want a smoother paste, add a little more olive oil or 2 to 3 tablespoons of water. If you find that the chilies are too spicy, you can add more herbs, or change it up and stir the zhoug into some thick plain yogurt and serve as a sauce. The zhoug can be stored, in an airtight container, in the refrigerator up to three days.