An Evening With Muhammara
Ready to graduate from hummus and baba ghanouj? I'm hardly suggesting you give up these Middle Eastern meze treats anytime soon, but if you're ready to expand your horizons, hang onto your hat and hop aboard the magic carpet.
Feast your eyes on muhammara (Moo-HAHM-mer-ah, she says kind of confidently but hoping an Arabic speaker will chime in), a roasted red pepper puree seasoned with walnuts, pomegranate molasses and Aleppo pepper, a deep red moderately spicy chile from Aleppo, Syria, an ancient city in the northwestern corner of the country. The story is that the Aleppo is the birthplace of muhammara, but it's my understanding you'll find muhammara in southern Turkey as well.
Unlike hummus, this is not a seven-minute dish, but muhammara rewards you with a multiplex of flavor - a little sweet, a little savory, a little spicy - plus a deep rich color that pretties up a party tray. The extra work (and prep time) in question is the hour required to roast a few peppers, time well spent rather than opening a jar of peppers from the store, in my opinion.
In the spirit of expedience, I must confess I made this batch of muhammara without the famed Aleppo pepper (available via penzeys.com), improvising with a mix of smoked paprika and cayenne pepper. Aleppo is deep mahogany in color, with a deep smoky quality that some compare to ancho chiles with a little cumin mixed in. You might see it sold as halaby pepper or kirmizi biber.
Whatever pepper you decide upon, I think you'll love this stuff. Its smooth texture gives the impression it must be loaded with dairy fat, when there's nary a drop of butter or animal fat whatsoever. It's those walnuts doing all the talking -- and they're loaded with heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids!
This magic carpet ride is over, but I urge you to hop aboard next time you're hosting a little cocktail shindig and want to do something a little different with little extra effort.
P.S. The resulting texture is hummus-like, so you can most certainly slab it on bread as a sandwich spread. I thinking it'd be lovely with a little feta and lettuce!
Below, the recipe details, with KOD notes in parentheses.
Today is chat day and a little earlier than usual so that I can make a train to New York. What's Cooking, today at 11:30 a.m. ET.
Adapted from "Little Foods of the Mediterranean" by Clifford A. Wright
½ cup walnuts, toasted (for chunkier results, you could try ¾ cup)
2 1/2 tablespoons (7 ½ teaspoons) tomato paste
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs (from about 1 thick slice French or Italian bread, crust removed)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (I think 1 tablespoon is sufficient)
1 teaspoon ground red Aleppo pepper (alternatively, 3 parts sweet paprika, 1 part cayenne)
2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded, cut into strips, and set in a colander to drain for 15 minutes (I like to roast mine in a 400-degree oven, until blistered, for about 40 minutes.)
1 teaspoon ground cumin (alternatively, grind cumin seeds)
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt to taste (I used about ½ teaspoon)
Place all the ingredients in a blender and process into a paste, stopping the blender and scraping it down when necessary.
Refrigerate, but serve at room temperature. It will keep, refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks.
Makes about two cups.
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: Julia | June 24, 2008 10:47 AM
Posted by: Centre of Nowhere | June 24, 2008 10:47 AM
Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | June 24, 2008 11:10 AM
Posted by: what a nice way | June 24, 2008 11:50 AM
Posted by: PS: | June 24, 2008 11:57 AM
Posted by: Centre of Nowhere | June 24, 2008 12:08 PM
Posted by: David Lewiston | June 24, 2008 1:58 PM
Posted by: April Fulton | June 24, 2008 3:54 PM
Posted by: Fairlington Blade | June 24, 2008 7:24 PM
Posted by: Arlington, VA | June 25, 2008 11:35 AM
Posted by: Suzgrad | June 25, 2008 11:56 AM
Posted by: Fairlington Blade | June 25, 2008 1:41 PM
Posted by: kbockl | June 25, 2008 2:46 PM
The comments to this entry are closed.