I dedicated myself to this dish way, waaaay before I actually made it. See, I can tell you with near-certainty that Aleppo pepper is nowhere to be found in the greater Reno/Sparks area. Not at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. Not at the Persian market, though I did buy some bulgur wheat and whole valerian root there. Finally, the great almighty Internet, specifically Chef Shop, came through for me. And I can tell you with absolute certainty that the final product was worth the hunt.
The pepper itself is just lovely. It’s warm, complex and fragrant–all the things I love about Middle Eastern food. The original recipe suggests crushed red pepper and sweet paprika as an alternative, which gives you a pretty good idea as to what it smells and tastes like. But still, it’s not quite the same.
Aleppo is a major city in Syria. Major things are happening there… But this isn’t an appropriate venue to discuss them, is it? No. I’ll just shut up and cook some chicken.
Lemon and garlic. This has to end well, right? This was one of those recipes I just KNEW I was going to fall in love with. That’s probably why the Major Pepper Hunt of 2011 took place.
I like to include photos of delicious things looking gross pre-mixing. This is mostly some yogurt, and oil, and tomato paste. COME ON now. Ignore what your eyes are telling you. Are your taste buds talking to your brain right now and imagining what this tastes like? Mine did, and they were so right. I love that rich tomato flavor tomato paste provides. Combined with tangy lemon and yogurt as well as warm, slightly spicy pepper, it’s just about perfect.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot chicken was supposed to go in here. You can’t eat this marinade with a spoon, silly. Or can you?
Marinating happens overnight. It requires patience, but it’s for the best. Just have a bowl of cereal for dinner tonight. Optimal happiness tonight AND tomorrow.
And then we grill! Make fire and put animal flesh on it. We’ve come a long way as a species.
Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Kebabs with Aleppo Pepper
(recipe from Epicurious)
1 1/2 tablespoons Aleppo pepper
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed with the flat side of a knife
1 lemon, thinly sliced into rounds
2 1/4 pounds skinless boneless chicken (thighs and/or breast halves), cut into 1 1/4-inch cubes (Note: I used about 1 1/2 pounds of chicken breast)
Mix Aleppo pepper with 1 tablespoon of warm water in a large bowl. Mix in yogurt, olive oil, vinegar, tomato paste, salt and black pepper with the spice mixture and whisk until blended. Stir in your garlic, lemon and chicken. Cover tightly and chill overnight.
Skewer the chicken cubes onto skewers and preheat grill to medium-high. Sprinkle each skewer with additional salt, black pepper and Aleppo pepper, if desired. Brush the grill grate with oil and grill kebabs until golden brown and cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes total. (My favorite method of checking chicken doneness is simply to poke it and see if it feels squishy, but whatever works for you.) Serve alongside grilled vegetables (I like bell peppers, zucchini, red onion and tomatoes), pita wedges and tzatziki.