Not that long ago — 10 years at most — it was hard to find merguez in Sonoma County unless you could get a sausage maker to do a special order. A couple of supermarkets offered it briefly but discontinued it when it didn’t sell.
Sonoma County Meat Company has an excellent version, as does Owen Family Farm, which attends the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market on Saturdays and the Sebastopol Farmers Market on Sunday.
Gypsy Girl Sausages makes an excellent version, too, and Franco Dunn’s One World Sausages keeps it in rotation, offering it a few times a year.
Although there are many variations of the sausage with Moroccan roots, merguez is typically made of lamb, with a range of seasonings that can include ginger, cumin, cinnamon, garlic, paprika, cilantro and even dried apricot. Some are spicy hot; many are not. It stands next to chorizo as one of the world’s most flavorful and delicious sausages.
You can make your own, but if you are not deft at stuffing a meat mixture into lamb casings, you might want to make it bulk and fry it crumbled or as patties. I have posted that recipe at Eat This Now at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com, along with several other recipes from the archives that call for merguez.
This rich and filling salad is even more so when you use one of the variations below. It makes a great addition to a spring barbecue and is excellent as a main course on a busy night.
Warm Pasta Salad with Merguez, Chickpeas, Celery, Green Onions & Chermoula
Serves 4 to 6
— Kosher salt
6 ounces small pasta, such as tubetti
— Chermoula (see Note below)
½ pound thin merguez
3 celery stalks, cut into small dice
1 bunch green onions, white and green parts, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
½ cup sliced green olives
4 ounces feta cheese, broken into chunks
— Black pepper in a mill
Fill a medium saucepan half full with water, add a generous tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water boils, stir in the pasta and cook according to package directions until just tender, stirring now and then as it cooks.
Meanwhile, make the chermoula and fry the merguez in a heavy skillet until cooked through. Set the sausages on a clean work surface, let cool slightly and cut into ½-inch pieces. Set aside.
When the pasta is done, drain it thoroughly and tip it into a wide shallow bowl. Add a generous 2 tablespoons or so of the chermoula and toss. Add the sliced merguez, celery, green onion, chickpeas and green olives, and toss gently. Add about 1/2 cup more chermoula. It should be very flavorful. Add the feta cheese, toss quickly and gently, correct for salt if necessary, add several turns of black pepper and enjoy right away.
Note: To make chermoula, crush 4 peeled garlic cloves in a mortar and pestle; season with salt and mix in 2 teaspoons sweet paprika, 1 teaspoon hot paprika, 2 teaspoons ground cumin and ½ teaspoon chipotle powder. Add ¾ cup each of cilantro leaves and Italian parsley leaves, crush with the garlic and spice mixture, and add the juice of 2 lemons and ½ cup extra virgin olive oil. Taste, correct for salt and enjoy at room temperature.