I’ve very excited that we will have a Whole Foods Market in El Paso opening in about six weeks. I expect to have access to a broader variety of vegetables and condiments than we are used to finding here. I’m very glad that Mark Heins, formerly owner of the Greenery Restaurant is changing careers to become the manager of the Whole Foods store. His years at the Greenery and its wine shop and bakery next door make me certain that the Whole Foods people made a good choice.
I prowl El Paso’s little neighborhood stores for treasures like oil cured olives, sumac (not the poison kind) and epazote for my culinary adventures. In Jerusalem, a Middle Eastern restaurant and attached grocery, I found Aleppo pepper. I’d read recipes with it and finally scored a 1 lb. bag for a very reasonable price – about half the price of a one ounce can I saw at Williams Sonoma.
Aleppo pepper is named after Aleppo, a long inhabited city on the Silk Road in norther Syria. It is grown in Syria and Turkey. It starts as pods that ripped to a burgundy color, then are semi-dried, seeded and crushed or ground. It has a moderate heat of around 10,000 on the Scoville scale. Its scent is a little fruity and mildly cumin-like. It reminds me of ancho chile powder, but is a little more mild and oily. It is delicious.
I’ve been assigned to make a potato dish for a potluck on Saturday night. I decided to experiment with tiny new potatoes and thought of my stash of Aleppo pepper. I sautéed potato coins in a little olive oil until they were crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. After plating them, I drizzled them with Aleppo oil and a light sprinkle of kosher salt. I modestly have to say they were terrific. I expect the Aleppo oil will probably be a new experience for my friends on Saturday night. I also, drizzled a bit of oil on my steak, but decided that it was too subtle for the red meat. I’ll be report on work with the oil and other vegetables soon.
1 Tbsp Aleppo pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
In a small pan, simmer Aleppo pepper and paprika in oil for about a minute to infuse their flavors into the oil. Swirl you pan frequently while simmering. Let cool and drizzle over vegetables.