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Tuesday, August 26, 2008



I thought I would post with a recipe of this quintessential Arabic condiment. There are all sorts of Mexican hot sauces on the market, Thai and Vietnamese hot sauces are readily available as well, but it's hard to find Middle Eastern hot. I hadn't made it since the Easter before last, and when I made it this weekend, I wondered why. It is quick, easy, and really belongs in the refrigerator at all times.

So, here I offer my recipe. Please understand that except for the whole items (i.e. the chiles and the lemon), all the numbers below are completely made up. I put in what looks good to me and fiddle with it until it tastes and looks right.

20 small, dried red chiles
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons toasted cumin seed
1 tablespoon toasted coriander seed
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne powder
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil

Soak the chiles in hot water for about an hour. Get all the other ingredients ready while they soak. Pour off the water and set aside.

Traditionally, you'd use a mortar and pestle and grind the garlic with the salt to make a paste, then add the drained peppers, the spices, grind those down and add the lemon juice to make into a slurry, then drizzle the oil into your mix and grind the whole thing into a thin paste.

I dump the whole mess (not the water, drain the peppers) into the blender and whir it up until everything is a nice liquid. Also, if you don't have time to toast the seeds, it will still be nice, but not as good. If you are out of the seeds, add what looks like the right amount of the powder. Not the best option, but it will still taste good. So, your best option is the toasted seeds, then the seeds untoasted, then the powder.

Serve this with meat, falafel, ful mudammas, stuffed grape leaves (waraq ounab), on warm khoubz Araby or with a spoon. It has a kick to it, but it isn't just hot, there is a great flavor there. We like hot food here, but we are no chileheads. If it's so hot it burns your taste buds off, what's the point?

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