Soom Premium Tahini
Many supermarket tahinis are over-roasted, which gives them an unpleasant, bitter flavor. They are also too thick and hard to stir into a creamy blend. Soom's tahini has a full, nutty flavor as well as a pourable and well-balanced texture, made from single-origin white sesame seeds from northwestern Ethiopia that have an ideal oil-to-protein ratio.
Casablanca Market Preserved Lemons from Morocco
Casablanca Market's preserved lemons have a bright, balanced flavor, and they aren't overly salty or bitter like some brands. We like that they add a bold, piquant kick to dishes without being too sour, and their tender texture is perfect for chopping finely and incorporating into recipes.
Milk Street Za'atar Blend
<p>We like to think there are few dishes za’atar can’t improve. Our rendition of this Middle Eastern herb-and-sesame spice blend is punched up with Aleppo pepper, sumac and garlic for a complete one-stop seasoning. It’s also the perfect savory addition to your morning avocado toast, fried eggs or even a bagel smeared with cream cheese.</p>
Villa Jerada Harissa
Villa Jerada’s Harissa No. 1 is our favorite version of this North African red pepper paste for its bright, complex flavor. While many store-bought varieties have a one-dimensional spicy flavor, this harissa layers acidity and fruitiness with preserved lemons, a touch of vinegar and tomato paste for a lively, tangy condiment. Villa Jerada uses just enough high-quality Moroccan olive oil to make the harissa spreadable and smooth without diluting its flavor, as opposed to conventional brands that contain a high proportion of water and vegetable oil.
Mymouné Pomegranate Molasses
I discovered this Pomegranate Molasses from Mymouné through a Cambridge restaurant called Moona; the Lebanese company makes all of its products by hand in small batches, and their pomegranate molasses is the sharpest and brightest I have ever tasted. The bottle will last a long time, and it is so much better than the sweeter, less balanced supermarket products. It's a a powerhouse ingredient used throughout the cooking of the Middle East and the Caucasus region that I guarantee you'll love. — Christopher Kimball
Maalouf Authentic Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Stone-milled exclusively from a single grove of small, slender Souri olives grown in North Lebanon, Maalouf's early-harvest oil possesses a potent green color and a buttery, rich flavor with hints of green apple and artichoke. It has a subtle peppery kick and addictively long, nutty finish. This is truly an all-purpose, extra-virgin olive oil without the overpowering bitterness that mars many other brands. We have a very limited inventory of this small-batch oil; once we're sold out, we can't get more until next year's olive harvest.
Villa Jerada Aleppo Pepper
Fruity, subtly cumin flavored and only moderately spicy, coarse-ground Aleppo pepper is used throughout Middle Eastern cooking. We use it frequently and consider it a valuable flavoring for all manner of dishes that benefit from a little spark of heat. Villa Jerada’s sourcing is impeccable as these flakes are particularly moist and richly flavored.
Soom Chocolate Sweet Tahini Halva Spread
You can think of this chocolate tahini spread as the bittersweet, dark-chocolate sister of Nutella. Similar to how adding espresso powder to brownies brings out the chocolate flavor, the nutty and pleasantly bitter notes of toasted sesame are a wonderful counterpoint to the chocolate in this spreadable halva. Soom's tahini is made from single-origin white sesame seeds from northwestern Ethiopia that have an ideal oil-to-protein ratio and result in a creamy, pourable texture.
Mymouné Apricot Preserves
Unlike many apricot jams that taste mostly of corn syrup, Mymouné's apricot preserve is bursting with real apricot flavor. The Lebanese company uses local apricots that are grown without irrigation, which ensures they have a more concentrated flavor, and cooks the fruit whole down until thick and syrupy. Tasting this bright jam reminds us of fruit just picked off a tree at the end of a warm, summer day. Stir it into yogurt, or pair it with a drizzle of earthy tahini on a bowl of oatmeal. Matthew Card, our food editor, thinks it makes the best PB&J, especially on a nutty whole-grain bread. For desserts, Mymouné Apricot Jam is great as a cookie filling or, when warmed up and combined with an optional touch of bourbon, as a glaze for a pound cake. The fruity intensity of these preserves works with savory foods, too: Try blending it with equal parts extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice and a pinch of cayenne pepper to toss with roasted carrots, sweet potatoes or butternut squash.
Soom Silan Date Syrup
Soom imports our favorite tahini, and this silky-sweet date syrup has quickly become a kitchen staple sweetener. Also known as date honey, Soom’s Silan is a thick, glossy syrup prepared from steamed and pureed dates. It’s earthy and rich, with a rounded flavor and dried-fruit finish. Use it anywhere you might drizzle maple syrup or honey; it makes a terrific alternative to maple syrup on pancakes and waffles, or drizzled over oatmeal and yogurt. Silan even works for savory recipes. Pair it with toasted nuts or nut oils in vinaigrettes; you can also drizzle it over roasted meat or toss it with roasted vegetables, especially naturally sweet carrots, sweet potatoes or butternut squash garnished with toasted almonds and chili flakes.
Villa Jerada Ras El Hanout
Literally translated as “top of the shop,” this Ras El Hanout is a warm, complex, savory North African spice blend that can be a go-to rub for chicken, grilling, or simply mixed with Greek yogurt or softened butter. Every pantry should have a jar. Key ingredients in this blend include saffron, rose petals, grains of paradise, fennel seeds, monk pepper, galangal, orris root, white peppercorns, anise star, lavender, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, cardamom and allspice.
Mymouné Mulberry Preserves
This may be my favorite jam in the world, other than my favorite Sicilian Orange Marmalade. It is astonishingly refreshing and intriguing, with a flavor that balances sweetness and wild blueberry with wild herbs. It tastes undomesticated, as if it had been made in the far hills of some undiscovered country or something offered at the table in a Greek myth. It is great as a spread for pancakes (I love my own maple syrup but mulberry jam on pancakes is one of life’s rare treats), on toast, or on a fresh, hot corn muffin. Just delightful!
Mymouné Rose Water
Rose water is the aromatic, subtly perfumed essence that defines the flavor of many of the baked goods of the Middle East; it has the remarkable capacity to cut through saccharine sweetness. We like that Mymouné's product tastes clearly like rose and has a natural, not chemical, flavor, so it isn't perfumey like supermarket versions.
Mymouné Sundried Fig Preserves
This dense, intensely flavored Lebanese Sundried Fig Jam is perfectly balanced and only moderately sweet. It consists of 75% fruit, so you can taste all the richness of the figs. We like how the decadent, warm sweetness is accented and made more interesting by subtle savory notes from aniseed, while the sesame seeds in the jam enhance the figs' natural texture. This thick, decadent fig jam also has chunks of fruit for a more satisfying bite. Spread it with butter or ricotta on toast or in a sandwich. You can also feature it on a cheese tray, paired with creamy goat cheese, or even add a little to a meat stew to balance heavier flavors. Or smear a little between layers of carrot cake along with cardamom-scented cream cheese frosting.
Rumi Spice Pure Saffron from Afghanistan
After completing a tour of duty in Afghanistan, Kimberly Jung founded Rumi Spice, a company that grows, collects, and exports saffron, giving hundreds of local women well-paying jobs. It turns out that a good deal of saffron sold around the world is either old or made from dyed corn silk—Rumi Spice sells the real thing. This is premium saffron: collected by hand, sustainably farmed and ethically sourced. Here at Milk Street, we support Kimberly and the notion of helping the women of Afghanistan earn their own money directly for the first time in their lives.
Mymouné Orange Blossom Water
The secret to so much cooking rests on ingredients such as rose water and orange blossom water. Use them in rice pudding, cheesecake, poaching syrups or in just about anything. The rose water actually tastes like rose water; it is not as perfumey as the supermarket stuff. Same goes for the orange blossom water, which has a natural, rather than a chemical, flavor.
Villa Jerada Urfa Pepper
Produced in Turkey, this glossy, deep burgundy-colored chili flake has an earthy, smoky chili flavor, medium spice level and fruity finish with notes of cocoa and tobacco.
Mymouné Lemon Peel In Sugar
One of our go-to baking tricks is using crystallized fruit in our baking. This lemon peel is bright and citrusy, and we love the pop it adds to bites of dessert. Dice it and use it as an addition to apple pies, muffins, cookies and in cakes and or add in strips while poaching summer fruits. This lemon peel works in more savory dishes too, and I use it in my skillet cornbread recipe, in biscuits, and to flavor sugar (throw sugar and a couple of peels in a food processor to make lemon sugar), which can then be used to infuse your baking throughout.