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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.

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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.

Variations: To make this salad a hearty main course, make 6 deviled eggs using mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, black pepper and enough salt to make the flavors blossom. Put the salad into a beautiful bowl, set the deviled eggs on top and add a slash of chermoula to each deviled egg.

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Enjoy this rice dish on its own or alongside slow-roasted pork, grilled leg of lamb or roasted chicken. For a fabulous spring breakfast or brunch dish, consult the variation that follows the recipe.

Rice Pilaf with Merguez, Tomato, Cilantro & Preserved Lemon Gremolata

Serves 4 to 6

1½ cups jasmine rice

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 small yellow onion, cut into small dice

4 garlic cloves, minced

— Kosher salt

2 teaspoons sweet Spanish paprika

1 teaspoon hot Spanish paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon chipotle powder or piment d’Esplette

1 cup tomato sauce, preferably organic

3 cups poultry or meat stock, hot

— Black pepper in a mill

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste

¾ pound (5 or 6) thin merguez sausages

¾ cup pitted green olives, cut in half lengthwise

3 wedges preserved lemon peel, minced, or the grated zest of 2 lemons

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

Put the rice into a strainer or colander and rinse it in running water several times. Set aside and let drain.

Pour the olive oil into a deep heavy skillet set over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and fragrant, about 12 minutes. Add half the garlic, cook 1 minute, season with salt and stir in the paprika, cumin, chipotle powder or piment d’Esplette.

Stir in the tomato sauce, add several turns of black pepper and the hot stock.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, until the rice is almost done. Uncover, stir in the chickpeas and the lemon juice, cover and simmer until the rice is fully tender, about 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat but do not uncover.

Meanwhile, cook the merguez in a heavy skillet until they feel firm to the touch, not soft. Transfer to a clean work surface, let cool slightly and cut into ¾-inch diagonal slices. When the rice has rested 10 minutes, fold in the merguez and olives, taste, correct for salt and pepper and cover.

Put the remaining garlic, minced lemon peel, cilantro and parsley into a small bowl and toss together to make gremolata.

To serve, tip out into a wide shallow bowl, scatter gremolata on top and enjoy right away.

Variation: Poach 4 to 6 eggs in boiling water to which you have added about ½ teaspoon white wine vinegar. Spoon the pilaf into individual bowls, add a poached egg to each portion and top with gremolata.

Michele Anna Jordan is author of the new “Good Cook’s” series. Email her at michele@saladdresser.com or visit her blog at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

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