If you’ve been following my ramblings for the past few months, you’ve probably noticed I make a pretty big fuss about my obsession with sauces. Whether you call it a dip, a condiment, a sauce, or a marinade, if it enhances the flavors on my plate, I’m into it. It’s safe to say it’s not just me; it seems everyone at Surdyk’s Cheese Shop is all about the sauce, and these days the condiments of choice all hail from North Africa.
Harissa a long-running favorite in the sauce category, a true culinary workhorse that breathes new life into even the most tired of dishes. A staple of Tunisian cuisine, harissa is a condiment that generally includes chiles, garlic, and spices, sometimes even tomato. Spicy, smoky, and delicately earthy, harissa can be used in myriad ways. I like to stir it into scrambled eggs or use it as a marinade for chicken thighs. I’ve tossed together Lucques olives, chopped cilantro, parsley, and harissa for a quick cocktail hour app that never fails to delight. Mixed in with mayo, it makes for the most amazing potato salad you’ll ever taste, and I highly encourage you to add it to your Bloody Mary for a slightly more complex heat source than Tabasco.
Another standby at Surdyk’s is charmoula, a sauce that I like to think of as the pesto of Morocco. Like it’s Italian counterpart, it is versatile and there are about a 1,000 different ways of preparing it. When I think of charmoula, I picture a light, olive oil-based condiment loaded with fresh herbs, smashed garlic, and toasty spices. That would be a green charmoula; the red variation made with the addition of chiles, tomatoes, and/or roasted sweet peppers. Try it drizzled over all things grilled. I especially like how its bright flavor perks up grilled lamb or shrimp. At home I whisk together a quick dressing of green charmoula with plain yogurt, a perfect creamy-spicy accompaniment to a salad of peppery arugula, butter lettuce, and creamy avocado.
Last but not least is dukka, the darling du jour of the Surdyk’s kitchen. Similar in style to charmoula, this Egyptian creation ups the ante with the addition of toasted nuts and seeds. Dukka is typically sold as a dry spice mix, but we prefer our blend of crunchy hazelnuts, fresh mint, and smoky cumin with fruity extra-virgin olive oil to make it saucy. The perfect addition to seafood of any kind, I’ve had it with grilled salmon, black cod, barramundi, and others. Dukka never disappoints. Of course a great sauce is perhaps best enjoyed with straight-up carbs; toasted baguette slices or grilled flatbreads soak up dukka’s flavor in the most satisfying way.
We make each of these lively sauces from scratch in our kitchen, and you’ll see that they pop up often on our daily menu and our catering menu. We even conveniently package them for you to take home in our grab-n-go cooler. Be warned: Once you start, it’s pretty hard to stop. You’ll want to put these condiments on everything. I, for one, think that’s a great plan.
Enjoy! -Emily Dunne www.surdyks.com
P.S. A quick shout out is in order for the fabulous Dara, who raved about our sandwich selection in last week’s blog. We appreciate the love!