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1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (can sub lime in a pinch)
5-6 stemmed, seeded, and chopped hot green peppers°
2 bunches parsley, cilantro, or a combo, rinsed well of any sand, patted dry, and chopped (chop the stems and rougher lower leaves too but keep them separate)
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and chopped‡
Note: I find that using a powerful blender with a blunt blade like the one I have gives a great result with very little time or effort, so try that if you have one. You can also use a mortar and pestle or a food processor. I find that since it's avocado and not liquid olive oil you get a pretty decent emulsion any way you process it, so it's just more a question of effort/cleaning.
First add the spices, grind them briefly, then add the salt and lemon and process to form a paste.
Add the roughly chopped lower leaves and stems from the cilantro/parsley and process until all large pieces have been ground.
Add the chopped upper leaves and chopped avocado and process until you have smooth sauce that still has some texture. Taste and adjust salt and spices to your preference.
Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days (try to exclude air as much as you can to prevent oxidation by using a container you can fill all the way or a plastic bag you squeeze the air out of).
° Some thoughts regarding peppers:
I prefer to exclude the cores and seeds as they don't much flavor, just heat. I'll add serrano chilies to my usual jalapeño instead to bring the heat level up without compromises.
I always taste each pepper since they do vary in heat (learned this tearful lesson at breakfast time many years ago when I bit into a rogue jalapeño). I slice off the top and touch my tongue to it to get an idea, then set aside the top along with the seeds and cores.
A great tool to neatly extract the seeds and core is a bone marrow spoon, which is also great for eating bone marrow (naturally) and digging holes to plant seeds, and thus isn't a one trick pony.
If you care to save them, the cores, seeds, and tops are nice to use to infuse vinegar or vodka so you can easily add heat (and a bit of pepper flavor) to other dishes or cocktails. Just infuse in the fridge for 3-4 days and use. Will keep pretty much indefinitely and you can always refresh the solids and liquids as you like to make it perpetual.
‡ Avocado tips: buy them green and hard, make sure the skins aren’t spotty, that they are from Mexico or California, and that the stem is firmly attached. Ripen them on the counter until the stem end yields gently to the touch, generally 3-5 days (if you need them to ripen faster put them together with bananas in a paper bag, the ethylene gas from the bananas will speed the process). When they are ripe you can move them to the top shelf in the refrigerator to maintain peak freshness and texture for a few more days.
• Try stirring in some labneh, sour cream, or crème fraîche for an even creamier sauce that tones down the heat a bit. Great for young kids.
• You can always use different spices. Isphahan supplies a classic flavor with its garlic, limon omani, and cardamom, but please feel free to experiment! I'm playing with riffs on traditional red-pepper and cheese-based zahawiq and will report back.
• It was excellent on a tostada the also (pictured): a regular corn tortilla fried crisp in oil, topped with refried black beans, the previous day's extra enchilada filling (shredded chicken and zucchini), pico, avocado zhug, shredded cheese, and sour cream.
• I fried some leftover basmati rice in butter, with some onions, avo zhug, a couple eggs, and some chives from the garden. My kiddo wolfed it down. You can also use mayonnaise to fry rice and it gives a wonderful result.
• It's generally awesome with any egg dish, try it with shakshuka!
Food images and recipe © Christian Leue
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