Global Pantry: Turkish Red Pepper Paste

sera_hot_pepper_paste.jpg
I bought my first jar of Turkish red pepper paste (biber salçası) to make kisir, a bulgur salad similar to tabbouleh, which I first encountered at the since-closed Ephesus Kebab Lounge in Walnut Creek. Since it was in the fridge, we started experimenting, using it to spice up scrambled eggs and sandwiches, and it has become a staple.

I'm partial to the (slightly) hot version from Sera, which you can find at the 22nd & Irving Market or Indus Foods (1920 San Pablo in Berkeley), which also stocks the mild version and several other brands. Haig's Delicacies at 642 Clement has a domestic brand, Selena, which I haven't tried. All three also carry the pomegranate molasses and fine bulgur (which Haig's labels "cracked wheat") called for in the following recipe. I've found two specifically Turkish shops in the Bay Area, but due to their inconvenient locations haven't checked them out yet: European Turkish Market in Burlingame, and Turkaz Market in Dublin.

Kisir

2 cups water
2 tbsp. red pepper paste
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. salt
2 cups fine bulgur
1 bunch scallions, finely sliced
1/4 cup good olive oil
1 tbsp. pomegranate molasses
juice of 1 lemon
Romaine lettuce or Belgian endive

Mix the water, pepper paste, tomato paste, and salt in a saucepan and simmer for five minutes. Place the bulgur in a large mixing bowl, add the hot liquid, mix, and leave to cool. Mix in the scallions, oil, molasses, and lemon juice. Correct salt, cover bowl, and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving. Serve with Romaine or Belgian endive leaves, and eat by scooping up a bite of the salad with a small leaf or a piece of a large leaf.

This is a somewhat stripped-down basic recipe. Most versions include more vegetables, such as chopped parsley and/or mint, shredded lettuce, fresh tomato pulp, diced cucumber, or seeded fresh chiles sliced into thin strips. Black pepper and ground cumin are common additional seasonings.
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