Zhug it up!

As a Z-person, I notice occurrences of the letter Z, especially word-initial ones. As an English linguist, I notice occurrences of word-initial ZH, because they’re so rare. Outside of proper names in Chinese, Russian, and Ukrainian, it’s pretty much all about the verb and noun zhuzh (which comes with an entertaining gay-inflected history); zhuzh has recently made it into the Oxford dictionaries, but it’s still waiting for entry to the Merriam-Webster dictionaries and the American Heritage.

So my lingy sense tingled when this morning’s e-mailing from bon appétit magazine was headed:

Store-Bought Zhug + Greek Yogurt = the Ultimate Chicken Marinade

Yes! Zhug that chicken! In fact, ba promises (though not in these words) that zhuging it up will zhuzh it up. The magical substance:

(#1) A bowl of zhugurt (photo by Isa Zapata)

The food. From the article:

Deputy food editor Hana Asbrink has 24 hours in the day and 379 things to get done. In her monthly column, Shortcut to Dinner, she lassos overachieving products to show weeknights who’s boss (it’s Hana).

Chicken thighs are a weeknight dinner mainstay and it’s obvious why. They’re fast to prepare (especially when boneless), hard to overcook, and take well to any number of applications. Today, we’re highlighting their versatility with a flavorful marinade that also doubles as a dip.

Zhug (sometimes spelled zhoug) is a powerhouse green sauce with origins in Yemen, though it’s enjoyed widely throughout the Middle East. It often contains cilantro, chiles, oil, garlic, and spices, and packs a welcome wallop. When I don’t have an abundance of herbs and chiles at the ready for homemade zhug — or the time to make it — I turn to my deli-case standby: Trader Joe’s Zhoug Sauce. Seasoned with cardamom and cumin seeds, TJ’s version is just the helper I need when it’s 5 p.m. and I still don’t know what to make for dinner.

Prepared zhug works as a condiment or spread, but really flexes its muscle when combined with Greek yogurt for a tasty marinade that also tenderizes meat. Yogurt tames some of zhug’s heat, rounding out the fiery edges with its cool tang. In this recipe, it comes in handy twice, as a marinade and sauce, and it can shine many more ways throughout the week (make a double batch!): as a salad dressing tomorrow, sandwich spread the next day, and on.

zhuzh. From NOAD:

verb zhuzh (also zhush, zhoosh): informal verb [with object] (usually zhuzh something up) make something more exciting, lively, or attractive: the bag is a cool but economical way to zhuzh up many an outfitnoun an act, addition, or quality that makes something more exciting, lively, or attractive: they have given the traditional Spanish farmhouse an added zhoosh | [mass noun]:  her books are ideal for any cook looking for something simple, but with a little zhuzh.

And then on this blog, from my 11/25/21 posting “zhuzh it up!”:


OED3 (Dec. 2020) created a set of zhuzh-related entries — noun zhuzh, verb zhuzh, adj. zhuzhy — with quite a lot of background material. The dictionary cites a number of alternative spellings (among them zhoosh, zhoozh, zhush), and the noun and verb entries have etymological notes. [This posting gives] those notes, the glossing, and all of the cites

A following section looks at Merriam-Webster on the Queer Eye usage. And there’s a bonus section on Carson Kressley and camping it up.



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