Ipek Pepper From Formaggio Kitchen In Essex St. Market On The Lower East Side

Try this hot new import

Ihsan Gurdal is famous for introducing America to some of the world's great ingredients via his Formaggio Kitchen stores in Massachusetts and in our own Essex Market.

Gurdal's latest delicacy (and our favorite new pantry staple) is the ipek pepper, which is now available in limited quantities at Formaggio Essex.

Ipek means "silk" in Turkish, and the name denotes the rarity of this unadulterated spice. Gurdal buys both Maras and Urfa varieties of the pepper from small farmers, who dry the hand-picked peppers in the sun, then remove the seeds and chop the flesh.

If it wasn't for their heat, the peppers could pass for dried fruit: The Maras is a bright red-orange with a concentrated sweetness and subtle heat, while the Urfa is wine-colored, with raisiny complexity and a more aggressive burn.

And unlike those brittle red-pepper flakes you've had in your cabinet since 1997, these are delightfully chewy and moist (as such, they're also perishable and should be stored in a dry, cool spot).

Turks use the peppers the way we use salt and black pepper here–with abandon and on everything. Try them as a finishing spice on meats, salads, yogurt and eggs, or add them to your favorite sauces and braises for extra-robust heat.

Also available at the shop and online is the isot variety of both peppers, a lower-grade(but still delicious) seasoning that contains salt, oil and seeds.

Formaggio Essex at Essex Market, 120 Essex St. (between Rivington and Delancey sts.); 212-982-8200 or formaggioessex.com