Sephardic and Mizrahi-inspired hot dog toppings. (Photo/Faith Kramer)
Sephardic and Mizrahi-inspired hot dog toppings. (Photo/Faith Kramer)

Dress up your hot dogs with spicy Mizrahi toppings

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July marks National Hot Dog Month. A historic connection exists between Eastern European Jews and frankfurters, so I decided to celebrate by creating a Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Jewish twist to the toppings for America’s most popular sausage.

The Jewish connection to hot dogs in the United States goes back to the 1860s when German Jewish immigrant Charles Feltman began selling beef and pork franks from a pushcart at Coney Island. Feltman then developed the first soft, sliced hot dog bun and the popularity of his Coney Island Red Hots exploded, according to the company website.

Commercial kosher hot dogs followed when Isaac Gellis opened a kosher butcher shop in Manhattan and separately when Hebrew National began production, The Nosher reports. But it was a former Feltman employee who made what he called kosher-style all-beef hot dogs into a national food. Nathan Handwerker, a Polish-Jewish immigrant who had been a bun slicer for Feltman, opened his first Nathan’s Famous hot dog stand in 1916, according to the New York Times.

My recipes for tangy Mustard with Olives, creamy Garlic Sauce with Pickles, spicy Harissa Ketchup and piquant Quick Pickled Red Onions are inspired by a fusion of traditional hot dog condiments with Sephardi and Mizrahi ingredients.

I also like to drizzle on tahini, z’hug, which is a Yemeni hot sauce, and amba, a tart Iraqi-Israeli fermented mango sauce. Tahini, z’hug, amba and harissa, a North African pepper sauce, are available online and in many kosher, Middle Eastern and specialty stores. Check out my z’hug and harissa recipes here.

The toppings work well on meat, poultry or vegan hot dogs. Serve them grilled, steamed, griddled or boiled. I like jumbo beef hot dogs in pretzel buns with a sprinkle of sumac and chopped cilantro on top.

Mustard with Olives

Makes about ½ cup

  • ¼ cup prepared yellow mustard
  • ¼ cup finely chopped pitted olives
  • ½ tsp. olive oil
  • ½ tsp. brine from olive container

Combine in small bowl. Store airtight in refrigerator for 2 hours or up to 14 days before using.

Garlic Sauce with Pickles

Makes about ½ cup

  • ⅓ cup garlic cloves
  • 4 Tbs. brine from pickle jar
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup finely chopped dill pickle

Place garlic, brine, juice and oil in blender. Blend on high until as smooth as possible, scraping down sides as needed. Transfer to small bowl. Stir in chopped pickles. Refrigerate airtight for 2 hours or up to 5 days before serving.

Note: Use fresh kosher-style pickles made without vinegar or sugar, found in supermarket refrigerated section.

Harissa Ketchup

Makes about ½ cup

  • ½ cup ketchup
  • 1 Tbs. prepared harissa, plus more as desired

Combine in small bowl. Refrigerate airtight for 2 hours or up to 14 days before serving. Taste before serving and stir in additional harissa if desired.

Quick Pickled Red Onions

Makes about 2 cups

  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. crushed whole black peppercorns
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced very thin
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh dill

Put vinegar in a small saucepan with water, sugar, salt and peppercorns. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Stir in onions. Return to simmer. Immediately put onions with liquid and peppercorns in glass storage container or jar. Add more vinegar if needed to cover. Stir in dill. Let sit 10 minutes. The onions are ready to use but will be more flavorful if refrigerated airtight for 2 hours or up to a week.

Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is Contact her at [email protected].