For the last six months or so there has been a recipe (a clipping from Bon Appetit or some such publication) stuck to the refrigerator with a magnet. I guess I somehow thought that if it was out in plain sight I would actually make it – sort of a triumph of optimism over experience. Turns out that staring at something every day doesn’t necessarily inspire you to do something about it…
I did make it, finally, for a middle-eastern themed dinner party we gave recently. Sort of a miracle, really. The recipe was for muhammara, a Syrian puree of roasted red peppers, walnuts and pomegranate molasses, and it seemed so completely up my alley that I can’t believe how long I waited to try it. I’m usually such a sucker for anything with pomegranate molasses. As it turned out, though, I decided not to use the clipping, which called for jarred peppers and panko crumbs. I went with a recipe from Cooking with Amy instead, just tweaking it slightly. Like many dips, this is a very forgiving recipe, so you could adjust it however you wanted.
By the way, this is how I usually roast peppers. I know you get a better flavor by holding them over an open flame and blistering them black, but it’s simpler and more hands-off to cut them in half and put them in a hot oven until the skin blisters. It loses a little of the juice, but you get a more even application of heat. Then it’s easy to rub the skin off.
The only real issue I had making the muhammara was that I was rapidly running out of olive oil (we were using it in everything), so I went a little sparing on it, leading to a dip a bit thicker in texture than I would have liked. Also, I used two red peppers and one orange, which looked beautiful at the market but produced a slightly drab-colored blend – all red is definitely the way to go.
For our dinner party I put this dip out with a bowl of blue corn chips, some toasted pita wedges and a bowl of semolina crackers from the Breadfarm. The slightly sweet, crispy crackers were the winner with the muhammara. Thin baguette slices would also be lovely, I think.
I also found a great-sounding idea in Greg Malouf’s book on Lebanese and Syrian cooking, Saha – it calls for stirring together muhammara and labneh (yogurt cheese). I’ll have to make myself a note to try that sometime, I might get around to it in the next year…
- 3 red bell peppers
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp cumin
- hefty pinch red chile flakes, or a fresh hot red chile, chopped
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup olive oil
Roast the peppers and peel them, saving the juices. Lightly toast the walnuts in a skillet and let them cool.
Combine everything but the oil in a food processor. Once it’s blended to a paste, keep the motor running and add the oil in a thin stream. Scrape into a bowl and serve.