Sunday, November 22, 2009
The zing of Aleppo red pepper
Four of us met for a tasty and filling lunch yesterday at Aleppo Restaurant, one of my favorites in the exotic Middle Eastern food bazaar of South Paterson.
We ordered maza -- small plates of dip, fried and raw kibbe, salad and other appetizers -- and used the fresh, chewy pocket bread as our scoop or to fashion sandwiches.
At least a couple of dishes were made with the coarsely ground Aleppo red pepper that has taken the name of Syria's northern capital. I have a couple of cups of it in the freezer and sprinkle it over fried eggs, hummus or rub it into chicken.
At Aleppo Restaurant, the red pepper gives a nice zing to the muhammara, a spicy, Aleppan dip made with bread crumbs, walnuts, olive oil and other ingredients. And I loved it in the small, raw kibbe we were served.
I buy my Aleppo pepper at Fattal's Bakery, where it is sold for about $4 a pound, but don't bother with the bakery's muhammara, which is not as good as the restaurant's (975 Main St., Paterson; 973-742-7125).
When we visited Aleppo Restaurant yesterday, the staff was preparing two whole lambs stuffed with rice for a party of 50. I wish I could have been there.
My family's ties with Paterson's Syrian community were established long before I moved to North Jersey and started shopping there nearly 30 years ago
My Sephardic Jewish mother used to regale me with stories about excursions from Brooklyn to Garret Mountain so her extended family could enjoy a celebration of music and food called hefle (phonetic spelling, pronounced HEF-leh ). One time, my elegantly dressed Uncle Halfon, who always seemed to have a glass of scotch or arak in his hand, was stopped by police for drunken driving and jailed overnight.
Aleppo Restaurant, 939 Main St., Paterson; 973-977-2244. No alcohol permitted.