I am a big fan of Turkish and Syrian red peppers: Aleppo, Kirmizi, Maras and Urfa. So naturally I was thrilled to see the gorgeous story about Turkish red chile peppers in the May 2009 issue of Gourmet magazine. I instantly wanted to taste the lamb stew recipe that author John Willoughby provided at the end of the article. Follow this link to the Gourmet website to read the article:
We recently began to stocking these exotic red beauties in our store: www.cooksshophere.com/products/pantry/spices.htm and are eager to introduce our customers to their delicious, food friendly nature. One you taste these, I promise you that these red peppers will become a staple in your kitchen as they have in mine.
Those of you who love experiment with new tastes need to know that these peppers are flavorsome and not searingly hot as some Mexican chile pepper varieties can be. The hot, dry climate of Turkey and Syria, along with the particulars of the soil and the varieties of pepper plants they cultivate ( terroir ) produces peppers that have deep, earthy flavors and that are distinctive and seductive. They are addictive in a subtle but powerful way, and easy to sneak into many of your favorite dishes. The differences between them are slight, and like one’s children, all are wonderful and essential.
These peppers are ground, but they are ground into kibbly bits, not the usual fine powder. This grainy-ness is pleasing as it gives the peppers some mouthfeel. Ways in which to use these peppers are endless; one does not have to cook Turkish or Syrian food to use them, but if one does, then they are essential. Sprinkle these peppers over grilled swordfish or tuna steaks, chicken or vegetable kebabs and their distinct flecks add eye appeal as well as flavor.
Like a mad-scientist in the kitchen, I use them liberally in spice rubs that I concoct according to my mood and what I am cooking. I apply liberally (and pat them gently in place ) to hanger steaks or pork tenderloins, adding a good bit of my favorite Maldon’s Sea Salt for good measure and grill-baby-grill.
- Aleppo pepper: bright red, slightly chocolaty, slightly salty and medium hot
- Halaby pepper: these are crushed Aleppo pepper flakes
- Kirmizi pepper: described as a cayenne pepper, but still grainy
- Maras pepper: bright red and fruity flavor and is medium hot
- Urfa pepper: dark, sultry red-brown in color and tastes of clay and smoke and the good earth
Last week I visited the Middle Eastern markets in Watertown MA, just outside of Cambridge. I purchased some Muhammara in one of the markets and learned from the shop that they add Aleppo pepper to their delicious version of this condiment. Muhammara is made from ground walnuts, red bell peppers, pomegranate molasses ( yes, we sell that too ! ), tomato paste, olive oil, coriander, cumin seeds ( optional ) and hot pepper. The ingredients are ground into a paste in a food processor ( we like it best when the walnuts are finely chopped so the Muhammara is crunchy and toothsome ). Muhammara is usually spread on bread, but we love it served as a condiment along side grilled foods.
3 large red bell peppers
1 1/2 cups walnuts
1 1/2 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons Aleppo pepper
salt to taste
1. Roast the red peppers until the skins are blistered then put them into a brown paper bag to steam and cool for 20 minutes. Remove from the bag and peel the peppers. Disgard the seeds and cut the peppers into large pieces. Pat dry and set aside.
2. Toast the walnuts carefully in a skillet just until the fragrance comes up. Be careful not to burn the nuts. Let cool and chop by hand into fine pieces.
3. Add the roasted peppers and the remaining ingredients to a food processor. Blend well but not to a puree – it is best we think when it has some texture. Add a few drops of water if the mixture seems to thick.
4. Scrape pepper mixture into a bowl and mix in the chopped walnuts. Cover and refrigerate overnight to blend the flavors. Before serving, adjust the seasonings, adding more pomegranate molasses if you wish.