I have a soft spot for spices and herbs. My pantry runneth over with jars of juniper berries, cardamom pods and curry blends. When I discover a new spice, my toes tingle. Must. Have. That is how two chiles from Turkey ended up on my doorstep.
By now you’ve heard the Gilt Groupe, a online shopping company specializing in discounted luxury fashion merchandise, launched Gilt Taste earlier this year. A portal for unique, luxury food finds, Gilt Taste recently added wine to their collection of meats, seafood, cheese, produce and pantry items.
What is remarkable about this endeavor is the addition of an online magazine to accompany the shopping portal. Former Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl heads up the editorial portion of the site. Articles, videos and recipes from a stable of respected contributors add value to the shopping experience through great storytelling. Recipes related to the products for sale, either directly or indirectly, encourage readers to buy.
Gourmands with deep pockets can find a treasure trove of ingredients to showcase in their designer kitchens. The well-heeled can order a complete kit for serving American Paddlefish caviar ($222) before presenting antelope rib racks ($330 for two racks), perhaps roasted and sauced with a demiglace made with black truffle juice ($112).
As luxurious as some of the Gilt Taste offerings are, there are plenty of items to splurge on that don’t require a silver spoon trust fund or a winning lottery ticket.
I have neither a slush fund nor lottery luck, but I did spring for two jars of Turkish chiles through Gilt Taste for $6.95 each.
The chiles are packaged by the Whole Spice company, and off-point, it drives me crazy they spell chile “chili.” Chile with an “e” is the preferred modern spelling for a pepper, and chili with an “i” is a bowl of stewed meat, spiced with chiles. Nitpicking aside, I love my new spices.
Urfa is a dark red chile named after the Turkish town where it is grown. The ripe peppers are picked and dried in the sun during the day, then wrapped in cloths to sweat overnight, which intensifies the flavor and gives the chile a deep purple, almost black, color. This sun-drying-night-sweating process continues for about a week before the chiles are ready for crushing. The crush on Urfa chiles is coarse because the chiles are too moist and oily to grind fine.
The aroma consists of notes of blackberries, with whiffs of chocolate and tobacco. The taste is fruity and earthy, and the heat level is probably 4, maybe 5 on a scale of 1 to 10. Use it as a rub for beef (or antelope), or sprinkle on sliced tomatoes. You can even use it in desserts: sprinkle over ice cream or drop a tablespoon in a brownie mix.
Chile Marash is also moist, high in essential oils, although it is only sun-dried, not wrapped for night sweating. The color is bright red-orange and it reminds me of Aleppo, although it isn’t as smoky as Aleppo. Moderately hot, Marash is often mixed with olive oil and lemon juice and zest and rubbed on meats and poultry. Sprinkle it on hummus or on a sliced cucumber salad, and yes, it works in sweet applications, too.
After I ordered the chiles, I realized that I could have gone directly to the Whole Spice website and ordered them there. I would have saved a couple bucks. But here’s the thing: I never would have found chile Urfa or chile Marash if I hadn’t surfed through Gilt Taste.
And I would have missed the great stories the Gilt editorial team pulls together, stories that make me linger on the site, toggling between window shopping and words.
Whole Spice crushed Urfa $6.95
Whole Spice crushed Marash $6.95
Shipping for two jars $5.95