Halaby, in Arabic, means “from Aleppo,” and references my favorite pepper, the mildly spicy, fruity Aleppo pepper. A major hub for the world’s spice trade since antiquity, Aleppo has been ravaged by Syria’s civil war; its Souk, the largest market of its kind, sadly destroyed. My grandfather’s family was from the nearby Syria/Lebanon border, and in this area of the world, food traditions run deep. Stories of warm Arabic bread, homemade hummus and fragrant lamb wafting down the hallways of their New York walk-up still weave their way into our holiday dinners, as my uncle entertains us with stories the good old days and the food traditions that glued our family together across oceans and continents.
The Syrians are passionate about their food, and the Aleppo pepper is a staple in their cuisine. Thanks to brave Syrian farmers who persist on their farms despite the war, and their comrades who have planted Aleppo chile seeds across the border in Turkey, we are still able to experience the deep subtle flavors of this beautiful chile. This blend of Aleppo chiles and Sumac, a citrus-ey berry also native to the Middle East, is a tribute to the resilient and inspiring people of this land. A delicious addition to seafood, chicken and even lamb, it is one of the first spice blends I ever made and will forever be one of my favorites.