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Friday, February 10, 2012

Muhammara

Muhammara is one of those foods that upon first taste I thought to myself, "why have I NEVER had this before?!" Lightly-toasted walnuts and roasted red bell peppers are chopped, blended, and seasoned to make a bold and heart-healthy spread, sandwich-filler, or salad-topper. Smooth or chunky, you can't go wrong with this combination of flavor. If serving as a dip, garnish the bowl with pomegranate arils and fresh mint for a more elegant presentation.

Muhammara
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup raw walnuts
  • 1 large or 2 small red bell peppers
  • 2 garlic garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tbsp pomegranate molasses (available at most Middle Eastern, natural, and whole foods stores)
  • 1/2 tbsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • salt to taste (I used 1/2 tsp)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F; toast walnuts until fragrant, about 10 minutes (they should not brown much or at all). On your stove top, roast your bell pepper over an open flame, turning every few minutes with tongs to ensure all sides become charred. Remove the bell pepper from heat and allow to cool until you are able to handle them. Use your fingers to rub and peel off the bell pepper's skin and gently rinse to remove stubborn, sticky charred bits; reserve the pepper flesh in a small bowl and discard the charred skin, stem, and seeds.

In a food processor or blender, pulse or blend all ingredients until desired texture is achieved (chunky for fillers and toppers, smooth for a dip or spread). If you are like me and don't have such equipment, simply chop the nuts (I pulse roughly chopped pieces in my coffee-grinder-turned-flaxseed-demolisher for a smooth spread), peppers, and garlic* into pieces that will yield desired texture. Combine all ingredients in a stand up mixer and blend (or vigorously stir by hand in a medium bowl) until well incorporated. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to a week.

*I love garlic, and it sure loves me back. However, I do not enjoy having the taste of raw garlic on my tongue for an entire day, which is what happens to me if I consume it raw cloves. To tone down its bite, I like to crush or slice the garlic and let it sit in the olive oil in a stainless steel measuring cup on the stove while the walnuts roast and peppers toast. After the oil warms and the garlic becomes fragrant, I discard the cloves and continue on with the recipe.


Rebekah

Images by Rebekah Carter (2012). Recipe adapted from DedeMed Mediterranean Cooking.

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