Culinistas's Kitchen,  Health

Urfa, Wind, and Fire

by The Culinistas

Urfa biber is the new it-girl of the spice community.  Hailing from Turkey, this chile pepper known for its deep burgundy appearance and complex flavor profile (think salty meets smoky meets sweet meets sour).

Urfa begins like any chili spice: as a pepper.  In appearance, urfa peppers look like a bell pepper-poblano hybrid and are harvested at a darker orangey color.  To develop their deep flavor profiles, farmers leave the peppers to dry in the sun. This sun exposure develops the recognizable, deeper burgundy color.  Farmers tuck the peppers into a snug bed with a cloth or sheet of plastic, to preserve and enhance the oils overnight. They sell them to producers who grind the peppers into a coarse mixture, like what you would find at your local spice purveyor (shoutout to our favorite, La Boîte!).

The depth of flavor that the biber encapsulates starts with notes of chocolate and raisin.  It has a bit of oiliness, heat, and spice from its drying and storing process and a nice tang and smokiness, which enhances anything from hard-boiled eggs to roasted eggplant to a well cooked steak.

Urfa is high in vitamins A and C, B vitamins, iron, and potassium.  Vitamin A supports bone and immune system health, cell growth and reproduction, as well as assists in maintaining healthy vision.  Vitamin C heals damaged tissue and boosts brain power and the immune system. B vitamins directly impact energy production, cell metabolism, and brain function.  Iron boosts hemoglobin levels in the body, fights anemia, and supports a healthy metabolism. Potassium plays a role in muscle, bone, and cardiovascular strength.  Urfa biber also contains capsaicin. Capsaicin encourages diet-induced thermogenesis, a process of increasing the heat your body produces, ultimately speeding up your metabolism and increasing the calories you burn.  If all of this wasn’t great enough, urfa contains antioxidants which maintain your heart health and overall well-being.

The best way to utilize urfa going into the summer months is to enhance your BBQ.  Grill your favorite variety of vegetables and toss them in a smoky urfa vinaigrette.  Create a rub of urfa and cumin for your pork tenderloin. Mix urfa with some lemon juice and olive oil as a marinade for your skirt steak.  Season hamburger patties with urfa to elevate the family classic. Incorporating urfa into each of these dishes will infuse each of the complex flavors, creating dimension, balance, and interest across your menu.

A special thanks to Sylvie Rosokoff for the beautiful photograph.