Muhammara

Muhammara:  A red pepper and walnut dip, usually made with dried spices, lemon, pomegranate molasses, and olive oil.  It can also be defined as delicious, a pleasant surprise, healthy and something you’ve got to try.

I had this dip the first time a few weeks ago and immediately knew this was going to be an addition to my repertoire, one way or another.  What a delicious dip!  Spicy, cool, balanced, made almost to the same consistency as hummus, only a little coarser.

Muhammara is Syrian in origin (Aleppo), and is common in middle east cuisine, Lebanese and Turkish cuisine.   It is traditionally made with roasted aleppo peppers (as appropriate, it comes from Aleppo after all), but many versions sub with any other sweet roasted pepper.  In my recipe, I use roasted piquillo peppers, due to their bolder flavor and darker color.  Many recipes also call for pomegranate molasses, which I do not use.  Lemon juice and honey add the sweet/tang that is necessary.

This recipe is also fast and easy to make.  The key is to continually taste the dip until you are satisfied with the flavor and texture.  Again, it should be almost the same consistency as hummus, but coarser, spicy, have a good balance of lemon and sweet, and the flavor of the dry spices should be pronounced, but not over powering.

Muhammara

Prep time: 3 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Yield: 1 cup

Ingredients:

4 oz walnut pieces
1 can roasted piquillo peppers, or 4 small roasted red peppers, seeds, stems and skins removed
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp dry cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
3 tbsp panko bread crumbs
good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp honey
juice of one large lemon, or 1 1/2 small lemons
kosher salt
black pepper

Method:

Dry toast the walnut pieces in a heavy bottom saute pan until fragrant.  Remove from heat right away (prevent burning).  Drain the peppers.

In a food processor, add the walnuts, peppers, garlic, cumin, honey, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, a good pinch of salt, an equal amount of pepper, and the panko.  Pulse until roughly combined.  With the machine off, pour enough olive oil over the mix to heavily coat, but not saturate.  Run the machine again to puree.  If too dry, add more oil.  Taste it.  Add more salt, pepper, lemon juice, panko or dry spices if appropriate.  Add more olive oil if it needs to be smoother.  When you’re happy with it, it’s done.  Transfer to a serving bowl, drizzle a little more oil on top as a garnish and serve right away.

This is best served with olives and grilled pita bread.  You may garnish with a few mint leaves or pomegranate seeds if you choose.

Enjoy.

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