Being an adventurous cook and eater, I often stray from the mainstream and into the food and cooking of ethnic communities. Along the way there are delicious dishes, recipes found in cookbooks whose authors are NOT famous here or on Amazon, and trips to groceries where you need a cheat sheet to navigate the labels. Then, off to the kitchen! There are good meals, failed meals, great meals, and every so often, a previously unfamiliar ingredient that becomes a cooking revelation that works its way into my own recipes.
Over the years I have been a great fan of Aleppo pepper (easily purchased around here, since there is a good-sized Armenian community). I love this stuff. It is warm and fruity without being biting or sharp. More recently I have adopted a related ingredient, Armenian-style pepper paste. It is made from the same peppers and blends completely into whatever dish you are making. (In case you look for this, it may be helpful to note that the pepper paste in my area's Armenian groceries comes from Turkey, not Armenia.) This stuff is killer in a vinaigrette made with olive oil, lemon juice, a touch of pomegranate molasses, and pepper paste and poured over a tomato, cucumber, feta, and olive salad. Mmmmm.
What are your favorite ingredient discoveries?