People often think of basil pounded into pesto when they picture a herb-heavy sauce. But as a heat-loving plant, basil is one of the last herbs to become prolific in local gardens. In the meantime, it’s worth blending many other fresh herbs into pesto, marinades, sauces and dips.
Among my favorites is chermoula, a sauce common throughout North Africa. I first encountered it in Morocco, where every family I had the joy of dining with seemed to have a unique recipe. I tasted variations with a bit of heat from chilies, a more complex herb flavor through the addition of thyme and even a creamy version created by adding onions that were pureed until smooth. My favorite mix has a touch of ginger and a hint of red among the green thanks to sweet paprika.
Once I started making it myself, I found chermoula (sometimes spelled charmoula) to be just as versatile as pesto. It works as a sauce drizzled over fish, meat or vegetables and makes an excellent topping for baked potatoes. As a flavor booster, I stir it into rice, dollop it on mild dishes like Corn and Potato Chowder or even fold it into a batch of dough for a sourdough loaf. When we’ll be sailing for several days, I take a batch to split among several meals, such as a marinade for grilled shrimp, a seasoning base for vegetable couscous with chickpeas and feta and a dressing for potato salad.
Chermoula can also be used as a dip, on its own or blended into yogurt for a smoother texture. Instead of serving cocktail sauce with chilled shrimp, try thinning homemade chermoula with yogurt until it reaches your desired consistency. This herb-and-yogurt blend also makes a delicious dip for raw vegetables, sweet potato fries, falafel and tostones (twice-fried green plantains).
Makes about 3/4 cup
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped ginger
1/4 cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley
1/3 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
Pinch of ground cayenne, or to taste
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup yogurt, or more to taste
In a food processor, grind the garlic and ginger to a paste. Add the parsley and cilantro and pulse until finely chopped. Add the lemon juice, paprika, cayenne, cumin and salt and puree until smooth.
Pour the herb puree into a medium bowl. Slowly pour in the olive oil while mixing with a whisk or fork until emulsified. Fold in the yogurt, and adjust the seasonings as needed. For the best flavor, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. Use within 2 weeks.
Julie Laing is a Bigfork-based cookbook author and food blogger at TwiceAsTasty.com.
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