January: Aleppo Pepper

Recipe:

Turkish Fries

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 Medium Potatoes (Yukon Gold or Russet)

  • 1 Large Sweet Onion (Sliced)

  • 1 Tablespoon Butter or Olive Oil

  • 1 Tablespoon Aleppo Pepper

  • ½ Cup Canola Oil

  • 2 Green Onions (Sliced thin)

  • 1 Teaspoon Cumin

  • Salt & Pepper to taste

 

Directions:

Peel potatoes and using a mandolin, or a knife, cut into French fry shape. Then, soak potatoes in salted water for at least 30 minutes. While the potatoes soak, slice the sweet onion and sauté in oil or butter with 1 Tablespoon of Aleppo Pepper. Cook until onion is caramelized (15 – 20 min.) In a heavy skillet, add ½ cup of canola oil. Heat oil to 325° F. Pat potatoes dry and then place them within the oil, fry until golden brown. Drain potatoes on a paper towel and place them in a serving bowl. Using tongs, toss potatoes with caramelized onion and Aleppo pepper mixture, sliced green onions, and salt and pepper to taste. Add 1 Teaspoon of Cumin, and serve.

 

History:

Ranking at about 10,000 on the Scoville Scale, the Aleppo Pepper is associated with having a medium level of heat. The chilies originated in South America and the West Indies, and were among the “New World” crops brought to Europe in the 15th century by explorers like Christopher Columbus. Soon, they would spread across Europe to Syria, Turkey, and parts of the Ottoman Empire. The pepper is named after the city from which it originates within Syria. It was grown by Christian and Muslim Arab farmers, and traded along the Silk Road.

 

The process of making ground Aleppo pepper takes longer than other dried and crushed chilies. The pepper is cleaned by pieces of white cloth and then cut lengthwise on a single side to remove the seeds. The pepper is then placed on a rooftop to dry in the sun before it is finally processed. While some larger companies rely on thousands of families to produce the spice, most Aleppo Pepper production is done on the small-scale with family members and neighbors gathering to prepare the peppers.

 

In Arabic, the Aleppo red pepper is called ‘Baladi,’ meaning it “Belongs to my country.”

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Additional Recipes

February: Sumac

 

Recipe: Sumac Chicken Skewers

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed

  • ¼ cup Lemon Juice

  • 1 tbsp. Sumac

  • 1 tbsp. Olive Oil

  • 1.5 – 2 lbs. Chicken breast trimmed and cubed

  • Wooden Skewers (soaked to prevent burning) or Metal Skewers

Combine garlic, lemon juice, sumac, and oil in a large glass or ceramic bowl Add cubed chicken and mix to coat each piece with sumac sauce. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Thread chicken onto skewers. Use a grill, or grill pan on the stove to cook. Grill chicken for ten minutes turning the chicken after about five minutes. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil. Allow the chicken to rest at least five minutes before serving.

History
Sumac, or Sumach, is any of the 35 species of flowering plants in the genus Rhus; it is also related to the cashew family. The plant grows in subtropical and temperate regions throughout the world, including East Asia, Africa, and The Mediterranean. Some species can be found in North America. The word Sumac traces its origins back to Old French (13th Century, Sumac), Medieval Latin (Sumach), Arabic (Summāq), and Syriac (Summāqa.) All of these terms translate to what we refer to today as the color red. Sumacs can be found on shrubs and small trees and can reach a height of up to ten meters. 


Uses
Sumac comes from the berries of certain decorative bushes and trees known as Staghorn Sumac that grow wild in the Middle East (as well as other locations.) The plant yields tangy red berries that can be used fresh or dried and ground into a powder.

In ancient Greece and Rome, sumac had multiple purposes. The plant contains a chemical, which assists in the softening of leather and used as a tanning agent. When sumac is ground and wet, it is used as dye for wool. The plant was used in alternative medicine for its believed antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. Today, the spice is still used as an alternative medicine to help settle the stomach and relieve digestive issues. Sumac was used in cooking as a way of adding a citrus-like quality to food. For a long time, it was used in Europe to add tartness to dishes until Europeans gained access to lemons.

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Additional Recipes

March: Urfa Biber Pepper

 

Recipe: Turkish Urfa Kebab

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. Ground meat (Lamb / Beef)

  • ½ Yellow or Orange Bell Pepper (finely chopped)

  • 1 large tomato (finely chopped) 

  • 2 tbsp. Parsley (finely chopped)

  • 2 Cups yogurt (plain)

  • 2 Cloves of garlic (grated)

  • 1 Lemon

  • 1 tsp. Salt

  • ½ - 1 tsp Urfa Biber Pepper flakes

  • 1 tsp Oil for cooking + more for pan

  • Skewers (If wood, soak for 30 min prior to cooking)

Instructions

Mix yogurt with 1-2 tbsps. Lemon juice, 1 tsp of Olive Oil, and a pinch of salt. In a large bowl, mix bell pepper, tomato, parsley, garlic, Urfa biber, and salt. Do not use a food processor for this part, you do not want a paste. Add meat and mix well for 5-10 minutes. Take about 2-3 tbsp. of meat, and wrap it around each skewer. In a pan, heat 2 tbsp. of oil over medium heat. Fry each kebab until crisp and cooked through (4-5 minutes per side.) Top with yogurt sauce. If you want, serve the kebab in bread (pita / lavash) or with rice.

History
Urfa Biber (commonly known as Urfa Pepper), is a Turkish chili pepper that is known for its dark brownish / red color, irregularly sized flakes, and salty-sweet-smoky flavor. The pepper comes from the Urfa region of Turkey. The peppers go through a two-part process in order to be properly harvested; they are dried in the sun during the day and wrapped up tightly at night. This process is called “sweating,” and works to infuse the dried flesh with the remaining moisture in the pepper. The Urfa pepper has a bit of kick to it. Coming in at 7,500 SHU on the Scoville scale (about the same heat as a Jalapeño pepper) while it grows, the pepper becomes spicier as it dries landing around 30,000 SHU on the scale (or about as hot as a Cayenne pepper).


Uses
The spice can be used in any dish where you would normally use black pepper. Most Turkish and Kurdish cuisines use chili peppers instead of black pepper.  You will most likely see Urfa Biber on meats, roasted vegetables, rice, and chickpeas. You can also sprinkle it over baba ghanoush or hummus for an extra-added kick. Not only is the spice used in main dishes, it can also be found in desserts. Urfa pairs nicely with chocolate desserts like brownies, hot chocolate, or even ice cream.

urfa pepper.jpg

Additional Recipes

April: Fenugreek

 

Recipe: Brown Rice Pudding

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups Cooked Brown Rice

  • 3 Cups Milk

  • 2 Tablespoons Raisins

  • ¼ Cup Granulated Sugar

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

  • ½ tsp. each: Ground Nutmeg, Ground Cinnamon, and Ground Fenugreek Powder

Instructions

Combine the cooked rice, milk, raisins, sugar, and cinnamon in a saucepan. Cook on medium-low heat until creamy and thick and the milk is almost absorbed. This process should take 15 – 20 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent the rice from sticking to the pan. Once cooked, turn off the heat. Mix in the ground nutmeg, fenugreek powder, and butter. Mix well. Transfer to a serving bowl. Serve warm, or chill in a refrigerator for 2 hours and serve the dish chilled.

History

Historians believe that Fenugreek has been used for over 6,000 years due to remains of the herb being found in Tell Halal, Iraq. It was considered to be a medicinal drug and was used by the Ancient Egyptians. They thought it could treat burns and help induce childbirth. It was also used by the Romans as a soothing agent and to help cure infections such as fevers, respiratory issues, and intestinal issues. Also, during the first Jewish-Roman war, fenugreek was mixed with boiling oil to keep invaders from entering the city. You will often find fenugreek in dishes served at Rosh Hashanah due to the belief that it is symbolic for helping increase one’s blessings for the coming year.

 

Today you will see Fenugreek commonly used in food. The spice is very common in Indian dishes. The seeds of the plant are used in the preparation of pickles, curry powders, and pastes. You can find it used in chutneys, stews, spice rubs, and flatbreads. It is also an ingredient used in many Indian and Middle Eastern desserts. Fenugreek has a distinctive aroma that allows it to be used as a substitute for maple syrup or vanilla.

 

India is currently the world’s leading producer of Fenugreek, followed by Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Mediterranean, and Argentina.

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Additional Recipes