Best Markets: Sahadi's
Sahadi's has anchored the Middle Eastern neighborhood on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn Heights since 1948. The Sahadis are originally from Lebanon and they still make their own spice mixtures and roast their own nuts. Today, the whole place had the aroma of coffee and cardamom, a nice combination.
Here you can find almost any Middle Eastern grocery staple—many varieties of dried fruits and olives, nuts, lentils and grains, all sold in bulk. There's also a large selection of olive oils, cheeses and freshly baked breads.
But to me, the two real reasons to endure the crowds at Sahadi's are their spices, which are always fresh and pungent, and the homemade prepared foods.
Ros el Hanout: This complex blend of herbs and spices is used throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East. Everyone has their own recipe, but the blend often includes coriander, paprika, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and black pepper. (Apparently some very special versions also include hashish. Sadly, Sahadi's does not.) You can use this to flavor chicken stews or any tagine or braised dish, or sprinkle it over pork chops and peaches before grilling them. ($15 pound)
Yemen Mix Spice: I asked what was in this, and the fellow who mixes it up grinned and said "A little bit of everything!" When pressed, he said it was a blend of cumin, black pepper, cloves, cardamom and turmeric. Sprinkle it on a cold chickpea salad, or dredge scallops in it before grilling them. ($8 pound)
Halaby Red Pepper: This coarsely ground, brick-orange-colored pepper is more commonly known as Aleppo pepper, and it has the most amazing fragrance. I'm sitting here smelling it right now. It smells sweetly peppery like good paprika does, but with an added sharpness. It's very gently spicy, not too hot, but has a very complex, deep flavor. Aleppo peppers are native to the Syrian city of the same name, and they are sun dried before being ground. Sprinkle it on top of hummus or use it whenever you would normally use chile flakes or cayenne, but expect less heat.
Spicy Hummus: Sahadi's hummus is spectacularly creamy and rich. I especially like the spicy hummus, which has a nice kick that brightens the earthy chickpea-tahini flavor. ($4.95 pound)
Taramasalata: This creamy salted cod roe spread is assertively briny. I love Sahadi's homemade version because you can see the little orange fish eggs; sometimes mass-produced varieties are just a mass of pink food coloring. Serve this as an appetizer with crudités and pita for dipping. ($4.25 pound)
Also at the prepared foods counter, pick up an eggplant pie, which is filled with delicious stewed eggplant and red peppers inside a baked crust. ($2.75 each)
187 Atlantic Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11201