“The thing about schug that’s awesome,” chef Michael Solomonov of Philadelphia’s Zahav begins, “is that you find it alongside harissa on every table in Israel.” The fiery green chile sauce hails from the Yemenites who brought it to the region in the 1950s, contrasting the roasted red chile harif (hot sauce) from North Africa. “I think that’s interesting from a sociological point of view; that flavor has popped in from everywhere.”
At its core, schug—sometimes spelled s’chug, shough or zhoug—simply combines fresh green chiles, garlic and salt (see the recipe). “There are a thousand ways to do this, but as long as you have those, you’re there,” he says.
At Zahav, Solomonov uses serranos for their picante flavor, subbing in jalapeños when needed—though he warns that jalapeños’ spice can differ drastically between season and individual pepper. While some add fenugreek or cumin to their schug, he leans toward the unexpected contrast of cardamom and coriander. “Cardamom is floral, so when you add that, the schug, it gets interesting, and you’re creating depth,” he says. The rosy, citrusy notes of the coriander then lift the chiles and garlic to a lighter, brighter place.
Rounded out with lemon and oil, schug makes for a fresh green pepper sauce that Solomonov takes from kitchen to table and back again.
Whisking some schug into scrambled eggs makes for one fiery omelet on its own. But to kick your breakfast game up another notch, Solomonov suggests whipping up shakshuka, adding one teaspoon of schug per serving when simmering down the onions, tomatoes and peppers. “The garlic cooks out so it’s not as pungent, and the cardamom wakes up, too,” he says. “It’s a great backdrop to the yolks, adding the green chile to round it out with another pepper.”
Raw Tomato Salad
Solomonov promises a few slices of shaved raw fennel dressed with schug make for a flavorful salad. But the combo with tomatoes excites him even more, thanks to their sugar and acid, which work against the sauce's floral heat. “Dude! Get raw tomatoes, cut them in quarters, toss them with a few teaspoons of schug, add a few white anchovies and voila: dish.”
Marinated Chicken Skewers
“Everybody likes spicy chicken, right?” For Solomonov’s favorite chicken skewers, make an “onion juice” by blending an onion with two heaping tablespoons of schug. Start puréeing and add a few touches of neutral cooking oil so that the consistency just coats one pound of skinless chicken thighs, cut into one-inch pieces. Marinate overnight and then grill. The sugar and acid break down the meat while it marinates, and then caramelizes when cooked over charcoal. You get “a little heat and spice, but the onion as the foil makes it less in your face,” he promises.
Second to spicy chicken, Solomonov swears “nothing beats a grilled steak, and the schug is like a pumped-up chimichurri. It’s got garlic and herbal notes, but also spicy.” Toss a rib eye on the grill and baste it with schug toward the end, giving it enough time to coat the meat and cook out a bit without burning.
Labneh Ice Cream!
To bring the floral flavors of schug all the way through to an eastern Mediterranean-inspired dessert, first, drop the garlic from the recipe. Then add a tablespoon of schug per quart of your ice cream base, steeping it in while you heat your milk and cream, then straining it out before spinning. The result “tastes green and makes the ice cream sweet and picante.”