After sampling the chicken skewers with chermoula at the preview for Fresh Thymes Eatery, I was inspired to make some chermoula myself. A marinade or sauce in North African cuisine, chermoula varies greatly from recipe to recipe, but the common ingredients are generally cilantro, lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic. (Although there were a lot of recipes I found online which resulted in a reddish or orangish sauce, so clearly not all use cilantro).

Christine (the Fresh Thymes chef) mentioned sumac when talking about her chermoula. So being a sumac fanatic myself, I wanted to include that in mine, despite the fact that the majority of recipes I found online were sadly sumacless. (Seems like it should be a word to me, given my love for it.) Sumac is a spice made from the dried fruit of a bush native to the Middle East, and is frequently used in Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s a gorgeous redish-maroon color, and tastes very lemony, but with a more complex flavor I can only describe as somewhat like the taste of red pepper flakes without the heat. I buy mine in a huge container that I use extremely liberally in the dressing I make for Fattoush.

Chermoula Sauce Ingredients

Chermoula Sauce Ingredients

I wanted my sauce to be lower in fat than most recipes I found online, so it turned out like more of a paste, but still tasted completely delicious. I used a recipe I found on whatscookingamerica.net as a starting point, and used more cilantro, less olive oil and lemon juice, and added sumac. The result was a gorgeous vibrant green, which seemed perfect for spring.

Chermoula
adapted from a recipe on whatscookingamerica.net
makes about 3/4 cup

2 cups fresh Italian (flat) parsley
2 cups fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
4 medium cloves garlic
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground sumac
1/2 tsp hot smoked Spanish paprika
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp red chile flakes
1 pinch saffron*

Put all ingredients in a food processor, and pulse until a paste forms.

* Technically, you should soak the saffron for a couple of hours in warm liquid, but I just soaked it for about 10 minutes, then drained it, and added it to the processor. If you want to maximize the taste, soak it in a tsp or so of warm water well before you start on the sauce, then break up the saffron threads and add the liquid to the processor.

Chermoula Sauce

Chermoula Sauce (fine, Paste)

I made two dishes using my chermoula during the week. The first was scrambled eggs with oyster mushrooms, spinach, and chermoula, and the second was baked halibut with chermoula. The sauce (paste) worked wonderfully with both of them. Another keeper!

Scrambled Eggs with Oyster Mushrooms, Spinach and Chermoula Sauce

Scrambled Eggs with Oyster Mushrooms, Spinach and Chermoula

Advertisements

The Boulder Farmers’ Market opens tomorrow, and I am so ready for some local food inspiration! I haven’t been that motivated in terms of cooking at home lately, and am really looking forward to some fresh produce. Even if it’s mainly just greens and herbs this early in the season.

I did stumble upon a great tasting tomato cucumber salad a week ago when I was using up some left over tomatoes. For dressing, I used lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, and sumac, as I do when I make Fattoush salad. But I also added a bit of Aleppo pepper, which is a moderately spicy, slightly fruity flavored pepper grown in Syria and Turkey. It was completely yummy, and actually kind of addictive.

So this week I set out to make it again to document it. I wasn’t spectacularly thrilled with the photos I took, so I doctored them up a bit with some soft focus (oooooh, special effects in Photobucket…). So that’s what’s with the sort of hokey photos below.

I also kind of majorly overdid the garlic this time. The garlic bulb I bought at the store had the world’s tiniest cloves, and I had used a bunch of them earlier in the week, so I got it into my head that I needed to use a ton of the small things to make up for the 3-6 normal cloves I would normally use, and I think I ended up using about three times the garlic I should have. Now, personally, I’ve pretty much always deemed it impossible to use too much garlic. But I definitely think I found the upper limit. Honestly though, it was kind of funny. I ended up trying to pick out as much of the tiny garlic bits as I could (@#$%, my excellent mincing skills!). I also added some parsley and mint, which helped tone down the garlic. But next time I’m going to make it without the parsley and mint, because I really liked the original version. The recipe below includes a sane amount of garlic.

Be sure to use fresh, ripe tomatoes (in the off-season, I have found that campari tomatoes are pretty good, but you could use roma tomatoes as well). Ideally you would want tomatoes with a bit thicker ‘walls’, but I think taste is more important than the tomato thickness. You also want to be sure to get rid of the seeds in the cucumber and the seeds and juice in the tomatoes, so that the dressing doesn’t get diluted.

Campari Tomatoes

Campari Tomatoes

Cucumber and Garlic Dregs

Cucumber and Garlic Dregs

Aleppo Pepper and Sumac

Aleppo Pepper and Sumac

Middle Eastern (ish) Tomato Cucumber Salad
serves 4-6 as a side

1+1/2 to 2 lbs ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 cucumbers, seeded and chopped
2-5 large cloves garlic, minced (add gradually and taste!)
1+1/2 T lemon juice
1+1/2 T red wine vinegar
1 T olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sumac
1/2 to 1 tsp Aleppo pepper
fresh ground black pepper

Be sure to get rid of the seeds in both the cucumber and the tomatoes when you chop them. Place the tomatoes and cucumbers in a large non-reactive bowl. To make the dressing, combine the remaining ingredients in a small bowl or mug, then taste and adjust spices as desired. Now pour the dressing on top of the tomatoes and cucumber, and mix well to distribute. Refrigerate for at least an hour, stirring every 20 minutes or so to redistribute the dressing.

Middle Eastern (ish) Tomato Cucumber Salad

Middle Eastern (ish) Tomato Cucumber Salad

%d bloggers like this: