mustard caviar

The other night (just before one child threw up, and about 12 hours before the other started running a fever–yes, yes, it’s been that kind of weekend), a friend of mine was over with her two girls so that we could continue some falafel experimentation we had started several weeks earlier. We were working with this gorgeous book with support from this one, and everything from the pita to the sauces just worked. It was one of those meals that I just kept eating long after I was full because the experience of having the food in my mouth was so wonderful, I didn’t want to stop. One of the stars of the sauce array was something similar to what Yotam Ottolenghi calls zhoug, a bright green spicy pesto we made with parsley, mint, green chiles, cumin , cardamom, cloves, and olive oil. We kept passing the zhoug and exclaiming over its wonderfulness, and the whole condiment frenzy got me thinking about condiments in general, and how a good condiment is nothing short of a weapon against dullness. I realized that with that in mind, it’s time we talked about mustard caviar.

Early in December, I went in search of a mustard that was all seeds and no paste, something that would pop in my mouth like my memory of the few times I’ve ever had caviar. I love that pop–from the burst of a pomegranate seed to the orange roe (caviar, too, I know, but…) that has clung to my clothes in every (yes, that’s multiple) Japanese restaurant I’ve worked in. I started playing around with Ashley Englishs recipe for pickled mustard seeds that she had posted here, and immediately I knew that my search would end triumphantly. My plan was to give some version of this away for holiday gifts, which I did, but only after first pulling a visitor over to the fridge, decanting a bit into a smaller jar, and tying the whole thing with a bow, all the while singing the mustard’s praises. The rest of it we ate on everything, and that practice continues.

Mustard caviar is ideal on a ham sandwich, or piled daintily atop what ever slice of cold meat you might be consuming at the moment. Our friend, Morgan, dropped off his homemade pork rillettes right around Christmas, and once Joey discovered the whole mustard caviar/pork rillettes on a slice of bread situation, that was all he ate until the rillettes jar was licked clean. But my favorite use for this genius condiment has so far been the salad that I will never get tired of, that is cold roasted beets, cubed avocado, a little bit of lettuce or arugula, and if I have it, a small handful of finely chopped dill. I sprinkle the whole thing with grains of salt, and then mix a tablespoon of mustard caviar with a tablespoon of olive oil before dumping the whole thing over the vegetables. Toss toss, or if you’re the touchy type with your vegetables, massage, massage, and then it’s done.

I’ve taken to roasting beets a la Tamar Adler, which mostly means that I roast a bunch of beets in a pyrex covered with tin foil until they’re soft, then pull them from their skins, cube, and store satisfyingly in a mason jar for eating through the week (while, of course, being gorgeous the whole time). It’s a great way to remember to eat lunch if you work at home, because why wouldn’t you eat lunch if you had cold roasted beets in the fridge. Also, mustard caviar provides excellent incentive.

Before we get to the recipe, I need to thank you for your quotes. I hope you’ll forgive me if I repeat that again sometime in the future, as I had no idea how wonderful and helpful it would really be to have such good quotes coming into my email constantly over the course of the week. I love to hear what inspires you, and in sharing it, you give me such a gift. Thank you.

Pamela, you won Laurie Coyle’s flowering herbs calender! Pamela quoted Babe Ruth:

“Every strikeout brings me one swing closer to a home run.”

And Celia, you won Anna’s Eat Real Food calendar! Celia quoted Bulgakov:

“You’re not Dostoevsky,’ said the citizeness, who was getting muddled by Koroviev.
‘Well, who knows, who knows,’ he replied.
‘Dostoevsky’s dead,’ said the citizeness, but somehow not very confidently.
‘I protest!’ Behemoth exclaimed hotly. ‘Dostoevsky is immortal!’”

Thank you so much to everyone who entered, and again to Laurie and Anna for sharing their gorgeous calendars. Winners, send me your addresses, and then watch the mail.




  1. Michael Schneider says

    > “what Yotam Ottolenghi calls zhoug”

    Does he really transliterate סחוג that way? Because that’s super-misleading, in terms of the way the word’s actually pronounced in, say, Jerusalem. (Wikipedia uses “skhug”, which is only a little better.)

    The fact is, it’s had to render that word in Roman characters because it begins with a combination of sounds that doesn’t occur in English or any Romance or Germanic languages, which is the “s” sound followed immediately by the voiceless “ch” sound (as in the German “ach”).

    Personally, I use “s’choog” but unfortunately I don’t write about it very often. But if you ever get to the Middle East and ask for “zhoug”, pronouncing that as a typical English-speaker would, no one’s going to have the faintest idea what you want.

    (The only spoken sound that’s worse to try to transliterate into English is the Cyrillic (Russian) Щ, which is pronounced sort of like the “sh-ch” in “fresh cheese”.)

    And, oh yes, the mustard caviar looks fantastic.


    • alana says

      And now I NEED to go to the Middle East and ask for s’choog. For many reasons, but first being that fact that I will pronounce it correctly and then proudly report back to you.

  2. Joey says

    But MS, it’s so much fun to say “zoog” while eating! Possibly because it brings to mind the evil Zurg from the Toy Story movies.

  3. says

    This past weekend I put in my seed orders for the garden and I decided on a whim to grow mustard this year. I’m going to tuck this recipe away for next fall. Grainy mustard is one of the best condiments there is, I think.

    • alana says

      Yes, yes- I’m realizing that with the ridiculous amount of mustard seeds I go through- it’s time to grow my own! Thank you for the reminder.

  4. says

    I looked up your blog because I got your wonderful cookbook for Christmas from my sister, Clare. I love the writing in it as much as I love the recipes and the whole concept. I make my own granola, granola bars, hummus, tzaziki, and such, but you have a whole new world of ideas for my girls (16 and 11) to try. I’ve just made my grocery list and ingredients for the veggie burgers are included!
    All the best to you, Joey, Sadie and Rosie :)

    • alana says

      Hello Rebecca! Thanks so much for your kind words- let me know what you think of the veggie burgers! (I don’t even like veggie burgers, and still- I’m a big fan of this recipe–we always have a bag of frozen ones ready to go.)

  5. says

    i have my mustard seeds ready and i wanted to make some kind of mustard condiment with dark beer, but the way you described this mustard caviar and the fact that it has honey, turmeric and ginger in it, leaves me no choice but to make this, instead.

  6. says

    There’s a Momofuku recipe for something similar, and it is the most wonderful taste and texture when paired with rice and lettuce and slowwwwwwwwly roasted pork butt. I am in love.

    • alana says

      Oh, I can imagine why that would make sense! You know, I get the Momofuku book out of the library every so often, and I cook something delicious, and he intro pisses me off, and AGAIN I don’t buy the book. I think I need to cave.

  7. says

    Oooh, another one to add to my list! Hubby is a Mustard Guy the way the Graddaughter is a Ketchup Girl – food is often simply a vehicle for condiments :)
    There are almost always cooked beets in the fridge…I put a little local goat cheese in my lunch salads with them.

  8. says

    mustard caviar, seriously? seriously! i think you brilliant.

    for this, and for looking gorgeous while roasting beets. i roast ahead also, but mostly i look like lady macbeth.

    a huge happy new year to you, alana (and a speedy recovery to those poor feverish wee lasses! we had it, also. no fun.)


    • alana says

      Ha! Oh, Molly, I too look like Lady Macbeth. If only we could truly channel Tamar Adler- she pulls off those beets with such style. But Tamar has her roots and I have mine, and I like to think that although different, we both (and you, too!) do it right in our very own way. Hope health has returned for a while now! xo

  9. says

    I feel like I’m stalking this recipe. My mustard seeds have been soaking in the vinegar for almost twenty four hours. I jumped the gun a bit and bought beets at the co-op last night, and I have dill, arugula, an avocado, and some tiny red potatoes. I don’t think I can wait a week. Thank you.

    • alana says

      Oh, it sound like you’ve got such a good lunch ahead! Have you caved yet? It’s ok if you have- just know that if the mustard seeds taste a little bitter right now, they’ll mellow out over the next several days. But you absolutely have my permission to taste. :)

  10. jill maldonado says

    Zhoug, please!! We are HUGE fans of all things green and savory and pasty, like salsa verde, pesto and ginger scallion sauce. We put these amazing condiments in soup, on bread, on eggs, on pasta…like you said, vehicular food, really! Now, I MUST make zhoug! None of the recipes I find seem QUITE RIGHT. But I think I’m going to go with one that uses caraway, cardamom, coriander among other things and…orange zest?

    • jill says

      Had to follow up with a zhoug report! YES, orange zest was a wonderful addition! I put some zhoug in my pho ga and it was heaven! Perfect way to chase away the chill on these single digit days!

      You always inspire!

      • alana says

        Yes, of course- orange zest- brilliant! There was no citrus in the actual recipe that I was working with, but I added lemon and it just popped, and orange zest would add such good citrus-y bitterness. And now I’m thinking preserved lemon (because I always think preserved lemon), and another batch might be in order.


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