Congregation B'nai Israel

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Shabbat Cooking with Ira Wise

June 12, 2020 - 2:30 pm - 3:30 pm

Yemenite Green Chili Paste, recipe from the World of Jewish Cooking, Gil Marks
Audrey and I first encountered Z’chug at a restaurant in Jerusalem called The Yemenite Step1. We loved the play on words, but we loved the food even more. They specialized in malawach, a fried flatbread. You could order it savory, filled with meat or vegetables folded
over, or sweet, filled with chocolate or honey or even ice cream. And there was always a dish of this crazy hot green paste on the table to add to the savory versions. We love it. Since we began to hibernate, I have usually had a batch of it in a mason jar in the refrigerator. It
keeps about two weeks.

“There are many versions of this Yemenite green chili paste. Traditionally the
chilies are pounded with garlic in a mortar or a flat stone, then spices are
added. A blender (or food processor) makes the process much easier. Z’chug is
fiery and therefore often served with crushed tomatoes or diluted with a little
chilbeh (Yemenite fenugreek relish) or tahini to soften its potency. Add a little
z’chug to stews and salads, and to meat, fish, poultry and fish sauces, or serve
with traditional dishes like malawach.

1 cup pureed jalapeno peppers (5 large ones)
1½ cups chopped fresh cilantro (or ¾ cup cilantro and ¾ cup parsley)
4-5 cloves garlic crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 -2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
¼ to ¾ teaspoon ground cardamom (3 – 5 cardamom pods)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tabelspoons lemon juice

Puree all of the ingredients in a processor or blender to produce a paste. The recipe
says you can seal it and keep it for months in the fridge. I find it loses its strength after 2
weeks or so.

Note – the fire comes from the chili seeds. I removed the seeds from 4 of the five
peppers and that seems to leave it hot enough but not crazy hot.

  1 – In Israeli folk dancing, the Yemenite step is a very common dance step.

Basic Tehina Sauce
From Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking, Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook
“Israelis love tehina like Americans love Doritos and wrestling – unconditionally and a
little bit irrationally. The country doesn’t run without it. Israelis eat it raw and use it as a
dip. They put it on sandwiches and salads. They sauce fish and meat with it. They use it
in sweets…

This simple sauce is one of my basic building blocks and is so versatile that once you
master it, there are a million things you can do with it. The important step here is to
allow the garlic and the lemon juice to hang out for 10 minutes after blending but
before adding jarred tehina. This step helps the stabilize the garlic and prevents it from
fermenting and turning sour and aggressive, which is the problem with a lot of tehina
sauces (and therefore the hummus made from them).

Because you’re making an emulsion (oil-based tehina incorporated into water and
lemon juice), the tehina sauce can sometimes separate or seize up. Don’t panic!
That’s why you keep a glass of ice water nearby and add a few tablespoons at a time
to the lemon juice-tehina mixture while you’re whisking, until your creamy emulsion
returns.” – Michael Solomonov.

1 head of garlic
¾ cup lemon juice (from 3 lemons)
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
2 generous cups tehina
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 bunch of fresh cilantro (optional, recommended)

  1. Break up the head of garlic with your hands, letting the unpeeled cloves fall into a
    blender. Add the lemon juice and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Blend on high for a few
    seconds until you have a course puree. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes to let
    the garlic mellow.
    (Ira’s note: I use minced garlic in from a jar, 4 or 5 teaspoons. It allows me to skip the
    whole straining process)
  2. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer set over a large mixing bowl, pressing
    on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids. Add the tehina
    to the strained lemon juice in the bowl, along with the cumin and 1 teaspoon of the
  3. Whisk the mixture together until smooth (or use a food processor), adding ice
    water, a few tablespoons at a time, to thin it out. The sauce will lighten in color as
    you whisk. When the tehina seizes up or tightens, keep adding ice water, bit by bit
    (about 1½ cups in total), whisking energetically until you have a perfectly smooth,
    creamy thick sauce.
  4. Taste and add up to 1½ teaspoons more salt and cumin if you like. If you’re not
    using the sauce immediately, whisk in a few tablespoons of ice water to loosen it
    before refrigerating. The tehina sauce will keep about a week refrigerated.
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