Wednesday, March 23, 2016

East Meets West for Easter... Aleppo Pepper Deviled Eggs

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I love the global economy.  The Fountain of Youth for new flavors and fragrances.  Just when we were getting tired of the old and tried recipes, the doors burst open to new cuisines and methods of cooking. When tagines can be found at TJMaxx, deeply discounted, you know this is no longer something new.  Now I know how the courts of Europe must have felt when they first tasted these spices and why they spent so much money sending men and ships in search of the Spice Islands.

Aleppo pepper flakes are now my new heat of choice.




 I know what you are going to say....Oh God here we go.  Now that we've gone through the salts, here come the peppers.  No, I stopped at Himalayan pink salt.  I still have a burlap bag of sea salt from Guarande that I brought home from France about 10 years ago,  It still sits on the shelf.  Too precious to use. Never got over that feeling.  So it sits on the shelf waiting for "just" the right occasion while  I use sea salt or Kosher salt. Julia Child used to say, salt is salt. Wrong.  Not all salts are created equal, nor are peppers.

As you know I am an Ottolenghi groupie and I have noticed that a lot of his recipes call for Aleppo pepper.  I have been substituting my regular old red pepper flakes, as heat is not a big thing with me. Don't get me wrong.  The right amount of heat is necessary to bring up a recipe to perfection but not enough for me to have a shelf full of different peppers.  That changed on my last visit to the World Market last week.  I love this place...you never know what you will find. Into my basket went a tin of Aleppo pepper together with a bottle of preserved lemons.  You can get all this at a Middle Eastern market but I am in Georgia, in the country, and heaven knows where that is.

I couldn't wait and had my first taste tonight...over Fettuccine Alfredo.  Oh my.  I have never gone this wild for heat!  Mildly hot and so classy and elegant.  I am a fan.  If this is on leftovers I can't imagine what it will be like on an Ottolenghi recipe.

The pepper is named after Aleppo, an ancient city in Northern Syria  long considered one of the culinary meccas of  the Mediterranean and an important part of the Silk Road.  It is also grown in Southern Turkey.   It has a moderate heat level with some fruitiness and mild, cumin-like undertones, with a hint of a vinegar, salty taste. Use it for authentic chili flavor in any Middle Eastern or Mediterranean dish. 



The blue line above is the old Spice Route.  The Red the Silk Route.  They both meet at Aleppo in what is now Syria.
Aleppo chili offers a nice variation from your usual crushed red peppers. It has a very robust flavor that hits you in the back of your mouth, tickles your throat and dissipates quickly. Try it in place of regular crushed red pepper flakes on pizzas, salads, and pasta.  From The Spice House

Like this review, what struck me was that it hit me and then poof!.. it dissipated.  I did not get choked with a lot of  heat that, to me, gets in the way of the food you are trying to taste.  A very elegant way to awaken your taste buds.

One of the most popular reasons for the craze of cooking with Aleppo Pepper is due to its friendliness with other spices. It blends exceptionally well with spices like Coriander,Cumin, and even Cinnamon. The dynamic flavors of Aleppo accentuate similar flavors in these spices to create an incomparable palette-pleaser. The flavors of an Aleppo pepper can be described as sweet and salty with fruity notes.. and if you feel for it- a touch of smokiness similar to the one found in Cumin. Normally, the saltiness found in an Aleppo is after math of the drying process in which salt is commonly used. In addition to these diverse flavors, these peppers are sun-dried and commonly used in a powder or crushed form which can present an essence of tomato flavor. from About.com
I suggest getting acquainted with Aleppo pepper in a dish you are familiar with and one that is fairly bland so you can really experience the taste.  Macaroni and Cheese is one (I usually sprinkle paprika or cayenne for a kick): Deviled Eggs are another. I have been singing the praises of this pepper to my son, who loves heat, and can't wait for him to try it this Easter Sunday.

My friend and fellow blogger Sam Hoffer of My Carolina Kitchen is as taken with Aleppo pepper flakes as I am.  It is amazing how synchronized she and I are on our recipes.  When she published her post mine was getting the final touches!

There are a million combinations for deviled eggs, from capers and tarragon, to plain old paprika and mustard. Experiment with what you like, and make them your own. In the meantime, try these. For big holiday meals such as this, I go light on hors d'oeuvres, but for Easter, there's always a tray of these around.

3/30/2016 Note: You will not be able to find the authentic flakes from Aleppo due to the war in Syria.  You will be able to find them from Southern Turkey or styled Mediterranean Aleppo pepper flakes.  Sadly ISIS has not only destroyed antiquities but also Aleppo pepper fields as well. They are not sure when the fields will be back in production, if at all.

Aleppo Pepper Deviled Eggs
Serves 6-8

Ingredients

12 large eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard or Durkees Famous Sauce
1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or cayenne
Salt
Special equipment: a pastry bag fitted with 1/2-inch star tip (optional)
Garnishes: Aleppo pepper, paprika, chopped fresh chives or Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cover eggs with cold water by 1 1/2 inches in a 3-quart heavy saucepan and bring to a rolling boil, partially covered. Reduce heat to low and cook eggs, covered completely, for 1 min. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 15 minutes. Transfer eggs with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking and let stand 5 minutes.

Peel eggs and halve lengthwise. Carefully remove yolks and mash in a bowl with a fork. Add mayonnaise, mustard, and Aleppo or cayenne pepper and stir with fork until smooth, then season with salt and pepper. Fill pastry bag with yolk mixture and pipe into egg whites.  Garnish with Parmesan cheese and Aleppo pepper sprinkled on top.

10 comments:

  1. A friend who gives rather good drink parties here serves devilled eggs as canapes, but not with Aleppo pepper, as far as I am aware - and by the sound of it, I would be. Certainly with paprika. We do have a good spice source here, but I'm not sure Aleppo would be in it. Unfortunate references, given the current turmoil in the city, but that's by the by. I am more intrigued by your egg boiling method, and must try it. I make egg mayonnaise for toasted Bavarian bread for lunch, and as it's mashed, it doesn't much matter, but my egg pealing is not always successful, (as in the potentially soft porcelain looking beauty seems as though it has suffered a bad dose of plastic surgery).

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    1. Deviled eggs here are served for Easter and picnics as canapes. I've always served mine with paprika too. This time with Aleppo is a first. Like the paprika it gives it a kick. And don't forget caviar on top! if you can get it and feel generous.

      As to peeling the eggs, run them under cold water as you peel them. It also helps if you shake them around in the pan (without water) to start the cracking.

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  2. Those Aleppo pepper flakes look a lot like the mild Korean ones--I don't know if the flavors are similar. There are many kinds of hot peppers available here--the only rule is to taste before you use, even if you have bought that brand before.

    There are also innumerable hot pastes, sauces, etc. with which to experiment. Even with so much variety, there is no substitute for Hungarian paprika, or for Tabasco-brand hot sauce.
    --Jim

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    1. I don't know Jim, this was so different. It was almost paprika with more of a kick. Thinking of trying it next with a bloody Mary...

      I am not a pepper expert and just getting acquainted with the Mexican peppers. I know enough though to stay away from Habaneros which are at the top of the heat scale!!!

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  3. "A very elegant way to awaken your taste buds."
    This was a fascinating topic entertainingly expressed and you've piqued my interest once again with something previously unfamiliar. The point about heat which dissipates instead of lingering and nearly choking, is what sold me. But then you could sell me the Brooklyn Bridge with your persuasive charms...

    Happy Easter dear J.

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    1. When things are cooked with so much heat that chokes you I spend more time getting over it than tasting the underlying food. This was a different sensation. The Balenciaga of peppers. If you can't find it in your neck o the woods let me know and I will send you some. Happy Easter, dearest!

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  4. Your eggs are absolutely gorgeous and so is the china bunny. Yes, I have fallen head-over-heels in love with Aleppo pepper flakes and can not do without them. Thanks for the mention. I've learned a lot from you about why the Aleppo tastes so good. They are vastly different from red pepper flakes and a lot more "friendly" if you will. Hope you have a wonderful Easter and I will definitely check out World Market. I never thought to look for them there.
    Sam

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  5. Would you believe I added them to my spaghetti sauce last night instead of plain red pepper flakes?! This jar isn't going to last long....Williams Sonoma also has it. Pretty soon I'm sure we will find them at Publix! Happy Easter!

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  6. Love Aleppo peppers. I buy them from Penzey's (they can be ordered). I use them every where I like a smokey-heat such as pizza, chili or pasta as you have done.

    Here's another view of this pepper. As has been said "geography is destiny". http://theplate.nationalgeographic.com/2014/05/16/a-brutal-war-destroys-a-city-and-a-spice/

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  7. I'll have to look at the bottles now and stock up fast. Thank you!

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