Recipe: Schug

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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

This crazy-hot pepper sauce and its phonetic-resistant name have their origins in the kitchens of Yemenite Jews. During the 1950s when everything was rationed in Israel, European Jews picked up on Middle Eastern culinary strategies to spice up their bland chow. Call it the era of falafelization. My late father developed a legendary appetite for this stuff as a student in Jerusalem. Decades later in the U.S. he was known to spread it on a bagel with cream cheese.

Schug has no hard, fast rules, and as such every chef puts their unique spicy spin on it. While the recipe is highly subjective, it should be more paste than liquid; if you don’t want your pita to spring a leak then it should stick to hummus. You can bring together kitchen and garden experiments for a range of color and flavor results. Grow your own habaneros, scotch bonnets, jalapenos, cayenne and chili peppers. To cut the heat you can seed the peppers or toss in a few benign banana peppers. It is a great addition to any Middle Eastern dish, and packed into a pretty jar it makes a thoughtful (albeit mildly sadistic) hostess gift.

makes about 2 cups

1 pound of peppers (you can mix it up, but go red or go green for bright, consistent color)
1 head fresh garlic, peeled
1 1/2 tablespoons cumin
Black pepper and sea salt to taste
Olive oil to cover

optional: fresh cilantro leaves, cardamom and lemon juice.

Throw your peppers and garlic into a food processor and purée. Add spices and pulse a few times to mix. Store the mixture in a glass jar and cover with olive oil. Refrigerate.

Make sure to wash your hands before touching your eyeballs or anything else.