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Urfa pepper, a Pantry Special (Recipe: roasted vegetables with yogurt and fresh tomato sauce) {vegetarian, gluten-free}

Pantry Specials are great ingredients that find their way into my pantry from time to time, but not all the time.


An interesting and limited-production pepper from Turkey, urfa pepper (also known as urfa biber) is similar to, but a bit hotter than, Aleppo pepper. Cultivated in the town of Urfa, near the Syrian border, the peppers are picked, dried in the sun by day, then wrapped and sweated at night for more than a week. This sweating process gives the chile (which is actually a bit more purple-brown than it appears in my photo) a rich, earthy taste and smoky aroma, and a flavor that hints of raisins. Urfa peppers have a moderate heat level; the heat develops more slowly than what we in Rhode Island call pizza pepper, but a little faster and with more sharpness than Aleppo pepper.

Is this Pantry Special new to you?

Where to buy online:
Zingerman's ($12 for 49g)
Savory Spice Shop ($3.60 for 2 oz)
Chefshop.com ($4.99 for 2 oz)
World Spice Merchants ($2.00/oz)

How to use urfa pepper:

Raspberry pomegranate urfa biber brownies
Rhubarb urfa biber brownies
Urfa biber chili cupcakes
Urfa biber shrimp with crispy julienne vegetable salad
Whipped potatoes with beer-mustard-honey sauce
Pork and sundried tomato cappelletti with pomegranate walnut sauce
Lamb, eggplant and spinach curry
Radish salad
Turkish lamb dumplings


Roasted vegetables with yogurt and fresh tomato sauce

Adapted slightly from Claudia Roden's Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey & Lebanon, this makes a wonderful side dish for a holiday meal, or the centerpiece of a vegetarian dinner. Can be served at room temperature or cold. Serves 6.


2 medium eggplants
3 fleshy red or green bell peppers
3 fat zucchini
4 medium red onions
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
1 Tbsp dried mint
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed (optional)

For the tomato sauce:
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1-1/2 lbs tomatoes, peeled and chopped (I used a 26-oz box of Pomi chopped tomatoes)
1 Tbsp sugar
Kosher salt
Good pinch of urfa pepper or red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp white or red wine vinegar


Preheat oven to 500°F.

Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise and then into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Cut the papper in half through the stem end, remove the seeds, and cut them in half again, lengthwise. Cut the zucchini into 1/2-inch slices crosswise. Cut the onions into quarters.

Each type of vegetable should be placed on separate pieces of foil on baking trays since they take different times to cook. Sprinkle the vegetable pieces generously with olive oil and with a little salt, and turn them around with your hand so that they are lightly oiled all over.

Roast vegetables in the oven for 25 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and lightly browned, taking each type of vegetable out as they are done. Arrange on a platter.

Serve the roasted vegetables hot or cold, passed around with a bowl of yogurt into which you have beaten a little salt, dried mint, and, if you like, crushed garlic, and a bowl of the following tomato sauce.

In a small saucepan, heat the chopped garlic in the oil for a few seconds only, stirring, until the aroma rises. Add the tomatoes, sugar, salt and urfa pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Add the vinegar and continue to cook for 5 minutes, or until the sauce is reduced and thick.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Romesco sauce
Hot roasted vegetables
Pasta puttanesca

Need more creative ideas for using tomatoes all year round? Get 25 Tomatoes, my e-book packed with fantastic recipes, full-color photos and a fun video tutorial. With the FREE Kindle Reading app, delicious tomato recipes will always be just one click away on any computer, tablet or smart phone. Click here to learn more.

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Very fun, especially since I have some of that! I didn't realize it was a bit hotter than Aleppo pepper. Can't wait to use it.

Yes, it was new to me...and very interesting. Great looking roasted veggies!

Roasted vegetables?! I'm all over this recipe!


I love pepper, but I'm pretty vague about flavor variations; this is a big help. I'd love a primer on the main 10 pepper flavors!

Yep, new to me too. I'll probably have to wait a bit before I try it as I am still breastfeeding and try to watch how much hot foods I eat!

those chili cupcakes sound good...I might have a go at that.
is it cold in RI lately?
this cold-snap is killing me, and we have how many months left till Spring?

Kalyn, I hope you'll have fun with it. I'm still experimenting. Claudia Roden's books have some wonderful recipes.

Joan, Paz: the whole dish together, with a drizzle of yogurt sauce and this thick-as-jam tomato sauce, was really delicious.

Mae, sounds like a good subject for a post on your blog... I'll be looking for it!

Aimee, this will be a dish to look forward to when you're back on spicy foods.

Dawn, it is cold -- I've had to turn on my heat more than once this weekend. I debated about whether to have a room temperature vegetable dish, but it was so delicious that I'm glad I made this.

You've really taught me alot about the different types of peppers out there - I promise I'm going to become more brave when it comes to adding peppers and heat to my cooking!

That pepper certainly sound interesting and with the weather getting cold so fast, it's nice to add some heat to food.

Urfa pepper?
Okay I'm interested!
Can't find them here, maybe the London markets would have stock. I definately want to try some. We're off to Spain on Wednesday (5 days culinary trip) so I'll be on the "Urfa trail"
I think your recipe would go down very well.

Did you get the peppers recently at Southend Formaggio? They opened a branch in NYC that is conveniently located across the street from my favorite *cough cough* bar which I plan to stop by Wednesday night possibly because it's across the street from the place with the peppers. YouknowwhatImean? Have a great Thanksgiving Lydia!

Well I've learned something today---never heard of urfa pepper before, but will definitely keep an eye out for it next time I browse our local, gourmet grocer (besides, this affords me the perfect excuse to get back there a little sooner). Thanks for the heads up!

OK, I did it. See my latest post at maefood.blogspot.com for a compilation of pepper stuff -- more than ten types, in fact. Thanks for the inspiration.

I love roasted vegetables (especially roasted red pepper!) The fresh tomato sauce sounds so good. I recently made my first big batch of homemade tomato sauce and it was SO good. I'll never go back to jarred and can't wait to make more, experimenting with different spices and flavors.

TW, to learn even more about peppers, see Mae's latest post: http://maefood.blogspot.com/2008/11/world-of-peppers.html

Veron, Lesley, Sandie: I'm having as much fun experimenting with peppers as I've had with salts. Hope you are, too.

Ann, I'm so going to the NYC Formaggio when I'm there in a few weeks. I love having Formaggio at the end of my block in Boston. A gourmet cheese and spice store? Addictive!

Mae, I've put the link here in comments. Great post!

Maris, this tomato sauce is a tiny bit sweet-and-sour, with some heat from the urfa pepper. Really a delicious combination, one that I will be making again.

I like the idea of pantry specials. I have a few of them myself, and maybe it's time I stopped hoarding them.

This does look good!

I love peppers that have a fruity note to them. They really add so much great flavor to my soups. The combination of smoky, raisin flavors to this urfa pepper sound really exciting.
Yes, another one to search for and add to our "pepper" cabinet!

That's a beautiful roasted veggie recipe!

I often use a similar Turkish pepper, Kirmizi Biber, looks like coarsely ground "pizza pepper." What a flavor! It's excellent for kebabs. Got mine at Kalustyan's.

Just minus that stroke that makes F turns out like E, I thought it were some UREA pepper! :O

Mimi, now you know I will ask what are some of the special ingredients in your pantry?! A few things from France, perhaps?

White on Rice, if anyone has a whole pepper cabinet in their pantry, I know it will be you. I paid attention when you gave a video tour of your huge pantry for Other People's Pantries!

Susan, that's a new one to me. It would be fun to have a taste test of all of these Turkish peppers. Seems like each village has a slightly different variety.

Tigerfish, funny!

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