Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Muhammara (Say WHAAT?!)

Repeat after me... Moo-Ha-Mar-A!

What might you ask is this? It is basically a red pepper dip from Aleppo, Syria. My first encounter with muhammara was when I was working in the test kitchen at Saveur Magazine, and I got to lo and behold first test a recipe for this concoction I knew nothing about -- nor what it tasted like.

Holy taste bud delight!

Think bright roasted red peppers with syrupy pomegranate sweetness, add the smoothness of walnuts and breadcrumbs blitzed with olive oil... and a good dose of cumin for depth? Yeah - basically that is what this is. Hungry yet?

I forgot about muhammara until I was shopping the Whole Foods Market in Salt Lake City, desperately looking for anything that would excite my baby food/soft mush diet (the joys of a broken jaw). In the hummus aisle (who says you can't eat hummus with a spoon?!), I found a little slice of heaven in a container. Needless to say, I devoured a half pint solo in four days.

Back East, I knew I couldn't find the same product. So I decided to whip out the old Saveur recipe and tweak it for my ease and what was available. The end result that night was delicious. A day or two later? Still amazing, even though the subtle heat from the red pepper flakes has deepened and become a bit smokier. Given it is 20 degrees colder where I am in VT than home in UT or RI, I gladly welcome some heat in my life!!! Should you not share my penchance for heat, by all means reduce/eliminate the red pepper flakes all together!


13 ounces roasted red peppers, drained
2/3 cup pistachio crumbs (this is basically 50/50 breadcrumbs and ground pistachios - sub in all breadcrumbs if you like, just be sure to taste the dip so it's to your liking)
1 cup shelled walnuts
5 cloves garlic, peeled
6 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt, to taste
1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup olive oil

Combine peppers through cumin in a blender or Cusinart and puree. Add salt, red pepper flakes, and half of the oil. Blend well. Add the remaining oil as desired, tasting for seasoning, heat, and sweetness.

Serve with pita points -- or for those with a broken jaw, a spoon!

Makes... a LOT!

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