“Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.” When Bette Davis said those words in a movie, she could have been talking about schug.
That’s what I thought when I made my first batch of the green stuff in the mason jar. What exactly is schug and why is it so…electrifying? Two words: jalapeno peppers.
Schug is a Middle Eastern hot sauce that can be downright fiery, depending on how many peppers you use. While there doesn’t seem to be a definitive recipe for schug (also spelled skhug or zhug), the basic ingredients are jalapenos, cilantro, garlic and lemon juice. Olive oil is often added as well as such spices as cumin or coriander. I was introduced to this version by Suzi, a good friend and excellent cook, who found it on amateur gourmet.com.
It’s classically eaten as an accompaniment to hummus and pita, but we broke with tradition and dolloped schug on chicken one night, on steak the next, and we even stirred it into guacamole to give it an extra kick. I can’t believe I’ve lived 60-some-odd years with no knowledge of this remarkable condiment, but I’m making up for lost time now.
You can vary the heat of your schug by adding or subtracting jalapeno peppers or by using more cilantro, lemon juice and/or olive oil. Make plenty, as it will keep in the fridge (what microorganism would want to set up housekeeping in this toxic brew?) for days.
I tinkered around and came up with the following proportions that had just the right amount of heat for us. It’s spicy but obviously not lethal.
2 jalapeño peppers, halved and seeded
2 garlic cloves
1 large bunch of cilantro, washed, patted dry with paper towels and large stems discarded
1/2 t. ground cumin
1-to-2 Tbsp. of olive oil
Process the jalapeno peppers and the garlic cloves in a food processor until chopped. Add the cilantro leaves, the juice of 1/2 lemon and 1/2 t. salt and process until contents are finely chopped. Add 1 to 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and quickly pulse to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more lemon juice and/or salt to taste. Dig in.