Saturday, January 31, 2009
Given my torrid, lifelong love affair with Middle Eastern food, it's shocking that I reached adulthood without encountering muhammara: a deceptively simple combination of roasted peppers, walnuts, bread, and olive oil that is immeasurably more than the sum of its parts. I was first exposed to this addictive dip at the home of an Armenian friend, via an enormous batch of his auntie's recipe served at a party. After eating almost the entire bowl, I begged for the magic formula so I could have more the very next day.
I made a few minor adaptations - more nuts, less oil, slightly more assertive seasoning - but otherwise it's pretty faithful, and I happily share the results with you here. Do be aware that this recipe makes a lot, but it tends to disappear quickly so trust me: you really can't have too much. It's good with pita wedges, atop a green or grain-based salad, or in a sandwich, but for the Optimal Muhammara Gluttony Experience I highly recommend getting your hands on some good lavash.
~ 2 12 oz. jars fire-roasted peppers, including liquid
~ 1.5 cups chopped walnuts, toasted in a dry skillet, or in the oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees (watch closely so they don't burn!)
~ 4 slices toasted whole wheat bread, crumbled
~ 2 tbsp. each: minced garlic, lemon juice
~ 1 tbsp. pomegranate molasses
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, cumin, basil, paprika
~ 1/2 tsp. each: fresh black pepper, red chili flakes (more or less to taste)
~ 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
~ 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
~ In a blender or food processor, puree the peppers, their liquid, the oil, spices, lemon juice and molasses
~ Add the toasted walnuts and crumbled bread; process until almost smooth, adding a little water to thin if necessary (you're going for a consistency a bit thicker than hummus, but still retaining a bit of texture).
~ Serve as a dip with lavash or pita bread and/or crudites, or make it a little thicker and use as a sandwich spread. Or cut out the middleman entirely and just fill the bathtub with it and climb in: yummy!