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March 2, 2008

Aleppo pepper (Recipe: muhammara — walnut and pomegranate paste) {vegetarian}

Aleppopepper

People in Boston -- home of the Kennedys, Parker House rolls, and some very smart folks at the World's Greatest University -- associate the word Aleppo not with northern Syria or caravanserais, but with large men in tiny cars and red fez hats, doing crazy-eights in the middle of the street.

Boston is home to the Aleppo Shriners, a fraternal order founded in 1882, part of a national organization that supports Shriners Hospitals for Children and specialized burn centers around the country.

Like Shriners everywhere, they are parade entertainers par excellence.

Yes, they can drive, but I wonder... do they cook?

And do they use Aleppo pepper?

Until recently, I didn't. Oh, I'd read about it in cooking magazines, and seen it on some trendy restaurant menus, but I already had so many peppers in my pantry. Did I really need another one?

After several Pantry readers pointed out the gap in my spice rack, I tried Aleppo pepper, and I fell in love.

Native to Northern Syria and Turkey, Aleppo (also known as halaby) peppers are sun-dried, seeded and crushed into small flakes. The pepper is a deep red, almost eggplant, color with a high oil content; the flavor is mildly spicy and fruity, with a hint of smokiness. You can substitute red pepper flakes plus a bit of cumin to approximate the flavor, or use ground ancho chile plus a pinch of cayenne or sweet paprika plus a bit of cayenne.

Aleppo pepper will add richness to many dishes, from butternut gratin to flatbreads with spiced chicken, lentil soup to lamb kibbeh, bulgur pilaf to collard greens. Mix it into egg salad, or sprinkle it on pizza.

Now that I've got it, what else can I do with Aleppo pepper? What do you make with it?

Muhammara (walnut and pomegranate paste)

This walnut and pomegranate paste is a stunning deep-red color, and the flavor is rich and mildly hot. Use it as a dip or spread, with bread or grilled fish or chicken. Recipe from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, by the incomparable Claudia Roden. Serves 6-8.

Ingredients

1-1/4 cups shelled walnuts
1-1/2 to 2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 slice whole wheat bread, crust removed, lightly toasted
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 tsp Aleppo pepper (or a pinch of mild chile pepper)
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp sugar
Kosher salt, to taste

Directions

Blend all ingredients to a rough (not too smooth) paste in the food processor.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Mushrooms and peppers in puff pastry
White chili
South End Deep Root Chili

Comments

this sounds really really good! and the pomegranate molasses is very interesting, never heard of it, I always learn something new from your blog..:)

I have not heard of this pepper, but your description makes me want to run out and get some!

I'm with Deborah -- I hadn't really heard of this pepper before today. I'm sure I breezed right past it in the Penzey's catalog a dozen times...now I think I might just include it in my next order. That spread sounds amazing!

I'm originally from Boston and those goofy (but good-working) Shriners are exactly what "Aleppo" conjures up for me. I'm glad to learn about the pepper and the muhammara does sound amazing!

I just made ham and cheese omelets yesterday with a generous shake of aleppo in them. I love to use it in bland dishes because it really perks them up.

I didn't even know what aleppo is! I want some now though!! Thank you for the informative post!

I frequently spice my hash with a bit of cumin and red pepper flakes! I'll have to give aleppo a try!

I've heard of this pepper, seen it in my Penzeys catalog, but never tried it. It's been on my "must try" list. I love the looks of that recipe, so next time I order from Penzeys, I'll include that.

hey - great new look to the photography!

You've mentioned this before and I've been intrigued- but not sold...until now! Must try it soon.

but you never explained the deal with the tiny cars.

i'm working on expanding my collection of chili peppers; i just bought a buttload, and aleppo didn't make the cut. good thing round two will be happening soon!

how neat! i'v never heard of this mysterious new pepper and it sounds delicious!! love the looks of that dip

Aleppo pepper is great! I'm a bit of a lightweight on spicy things, but it has just the right amount of spicy for me, with a great flavor.

Valentina, pomegranate molasses (also called syrup) is a wonderful condiment, made by boiling down pomegranate juice. Then you can paint it on roasted veggies or chicken...yum.

Deborah, Genie, Cakespy, Sher, Callipygia, Aria: please do try this. It's robust but not super-spicy, and adds a flavor unlike any other pepper I've tried. (next up will be the urfa biber from Turkey -- I might need to make even more room on the spice rack shelf...).

Susan, I'm so glad you remember the Aleppo Shriners! They were always my favorite part of the parades through the Back Bay.

Vanessa, yes, aleppo is great with eggs!

Joel, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. I can imagine how good this would be with hash.

Shawn, thanks for mentioning the photo -- it's a learning process, but I'm trying.

Michelle, the Shriners are famous for their miniature cars (of all types) that they use to perform in parades. Their mission is to raise money by having fun and entertaining children, and they do crazy car tricks in parades all over the country. How they got started with the tiny cars is something I don't know!

Aria, these peppers are wonderful. Do try!

Kalyn, I agree, aleppo pepper adds a bit of heat, but it's not incendiary. And I love the flavor -- can't believe it's taken me this long to discover it, but I'm so glad I did.

I know what you mean about having too many peppers in the cupboard, we have more than our share as well. These peppers sound like they are worth making an exception for, but I can honestly say I've never seen them. I can just imagine this paste spread over a chicken then slow cooked beggar style in a salt/flour case - have to go now...I'm drooling!

Never, ever seen that. But I´m out of basmati, so a visit to the Moroccan shops in Lavapiés is in order, and maybe I´ll find it.

Aleppo pepper? Never heard of this but I like the name Aleppo. Ha!

I'm always on the lookout for intriguing dips & this one sounds great. I'll bet it's fab on grilled chicken. Cheers!

Neil, until I decided to cut down on salt in my cooking (not that I ever used very much), I never had as many kinds of pepper. In fact, I'd never heard about half of the peppers I have now. Muhammara takes chicken into a whole other dimension -- it's delicious!

Lobstersquad, do try this. The color is seductive, and the flavor addictive.

Tigerfish (and everyone), if you can't find this in your market, I'm happy to send a jar to you.

Chase, this is amazing on chicken and with grilled fish, or just as a dip with triangles of toasted pita bread. Enjoy!

I am always learning new things from you, Lydia - this pepper is completely new to me. I love how vibrant it looks!

I've never seen this pepper to buy yet, but I'll look out for it.

I love your tip in the comments above to brush chicken with pomegranate molasses, that sounds gorgeous!

Lydia, thanks for introducing this pepper, simply love it!

I've had Aleppo pepper in (on?) dishes before, and I fully agree - it's quite delicious.

I'm going to have to give pomegranate molasses a try though. Over the last few years I've fallen head over heels for all things pomegranate, so watch out beef ribs - here I come! (Bet it makes for a lively addition to BBQ sauce.)

This is brand new to me - Sounds wonderfully good, and someday I'd like to meet the shriners too!

I think I will replace red pepper flakes with this in my pantry. Can't wait to place my Penzey's order! :)


Ahhh, suppose am lucky that my local charcuterie supplies me with meaty goodness all filled with the aleppo. No mystery here, just love.

xo, Biggles

ooh this would taste so nice.haven't tried Aleppo pepper before , but if i see one i will surely pick it up The dip does really sound fantastic.

Patricia, Gattina, Kate: the color is irresistible, isn't it? The pepper is flaky, like sea salt.

Kelly-Jane, the pomegranate molasses makes a great coating, like regular molasses but more tangy. And the color is great.

Sandie, try adding some pomegranate molasses (and aleppo pepper) to short ribs, too.

TW, I think any self-respecting parade should invite the local Shriners to come. Each group seems to have its own type of mini-cars, but they must all go to the same driving school because the routines are so similar. You can't help but smile when you see them, which, I guess, is the point.

Amy, I've been quite happy with the Penzeys pepper, but I think Zingermans.com sells it, too.

Biggles, you are a lucky guy indeed!

This must be synchronicity! The first time I heard of Aleppo pepper was this weekend; I bought Mediterranean Pantry by Aglaia Kremezi at a church book sale and she writes about it!
Now that I am aware of the word I'm sure I'll see it again.

KC, I love it -- synchronicity indeed! I'm not familiar with that book, but it sounds like something I should know about. I'll look it up. Have fun cooking with the Aleppo pepper I'm sure you're going to add to your pantry....

This pepper is sitting in the back of our pantry, never been used. Shame! Shame!
We're looking forward to using is soon, don't know when, but soon. The pomegranate molasses is new to us. Maybe we'll get some and finally put it to work with the Aleppo pepper!

WORC, come on, time to bring that pepper out of the closet! And yes, you will love pomegranate molasses -- it has a consistency like oyster sauce, and a flavor more like tamarind.

My daughter turned me onto both muhammara and Aleppo pepper when she bought the latter to make the former for an office party. I now buy Aleppo pepper 1/2 pound at a time. This stuff is seriously addicting. I've got a small jar of the stuff that I take with me to use when I go to a restaurant.

Debbie, I don't think an addiction to Aleppo pepper (or to muhammara) is something that needs to be cured -- it sounds wonderful, and I'm so glad you've discovered this pepper!

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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