Nigella seeds, sometimes called black cumin, is a spicy seed used to sprinkle on top many pastries, rolls and other baked goods such as breakfast 'poğaça (poh-AH'-cha). Each seed has a unique, bitter flavor and their pitch-black color looks lovely on top of just about anything. Black cumin is most often sprinkled on pastries, savories and layered cheese pies made with yufka or phyllo.
Turmeric is the spice that gives curry its yellow color. It has been used in India for thousands of years as a spice and medicinal herb. Recently, science has started to back up what the Indians have known for a long time...
Technically a red chile pepper, Urfa Biber matures to a bright red when it is then harvested and cured or dried for a week. The two step drying process is similar to that of top grade vanilla beans as during the day they are laid out to be sun dried and at night they are wrapped tightly. This process is commonly known as “sweating” and it infuses the remaining moisture of the chile with chile’s flesh. The resulting color is a dark blackish-purple. The flavor profile of the Urfa Chile is well rounded and complex with a smoky earthy edge and undertones of coffee, chocolate, tobacco and raisins. The flavor and heat is similar to the region’s other star chile the Aleppo Pepper which is grown only a mountain range away in Syria. Considered a medium heat chile this comes in at 6,000-8,000 SHU (Scoville Heat Units) and their heat is surprising as they start off a bit mild but then almost seem to increase in heat and intensity as the meal progresses. With their high oil and moisture content the Urfa Biber chiles keep better than most ground chiles. Because of their high moisture content they do tend to be a bit clumpy. Most commonly used in Turkish cuisine Urfa Biber chiles play a starring role in lamb kebobs. Their tangy flavor also works in a variety of savory dishes such as roasted vegetables, braised meats and hearty stews. While they can certainly stand on their own we like them best when used with other layered flavors. In this country with its raisiny undertones and delightfully nuanced heat it is becoming an increasingly popular “secret ingredient” in fruit dishes and sweet deserts (especially brownies, gingerbread and ice cream). It pairs very well with baking spices like chocolate and vanilla and with other nightshades like roasted eggplants and red peppers. Urfa Biber Chile’s intense flavor compliments pungent cheeses such as feta and adds an ideal balance to sweet chutneys. We like to also pair it with the milder Aleppo Pepper for an even more complex flavor combination.
Sumac, or Rhus coriaria, has long been considered a winter spice, as it is often the only thing left behind in the winter months for animals to graze on. It is native to the Mediterranean, and in the Middle East where it is used in a variety of spice blends. Sumac has 4% tannins and a higher acid content than many other spices, which give it that tart flavor. In Arabic it is called “summak/summa,” in Mandarin it is “qishu,” in French you will hear “sumac,” in German it is “sumach,” in Hindi “kankrasing,” in Japanese it is called “sumakku,” in Portuguese it is “sumagre,” in Russian it is “sumakh,” and in Spanish you will hear “zumaque.”