Friday, April 11, 2008

Today's Word is....Charmoula

I was glancing through an old edition of Food Arts this morning when I saw a reference to lamb with charmoula. In recent days, we've touched on chimichurri (and incidentally on its Italian cousin salsa verde), so why not keep going on the theme of green condiment sauces?

Charmoula, often transliterated from Arabic as chermoula, is the green sauce from northern Africa: Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria. The basic theme is a lot of cilantro, a little parsley (3:1 ratio), olive oil, lemon juice, a bit of garlic, and that's about where the commonality in recipes ceases.

Each cook adds his or her own touches to personalize the sauce: ras al hanout, cumin, green chiles, cayenne pepper or paprika, onion, lemon zest or preserved lemon, and so forth. Ras al hanout is another can of worms: it's a blend of many spices such as cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, paprika, cayenne, black pepper and so forth and so on ad nauseum. You think charmoula recipes vary? You should get into a "discussion" someday about the definitive ras al hanout mixture!

This whole thread reminds me that I bought some gorgeous cilantro at the farmers market this morning to accompany my dinner special: Huachinango en Mojo de Ajo (whole roasted red snapper with garlic paste). I'm thinking that charmoula might just be a great finishing touch, but I think we'll call it salsa verde.

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