Eating Jewish: Muhammara
Hosting dinners, whether it is for Shabbat or any other occasion, is something I truly enjoy because I love cooking for other people and it also gives me a chance to try out new dishes. However, despite the fact that I enjoy trying new recipes, there are certain standbys that I know I can rely on to be crowd pleasers. One of these recipes is the roasted red pepper and walnut dip called Muhammara. This dip originated in Aleppo, Syria where there was a sizable Jewish community, many of whom immigrated to the United States and formed a community in New York.
There are different versions of this dip, which can vary slightly, but the main ingredients include roasted red peppers, walnuts, breadcrumbs, pomegranate molasses, Aleppo pepper, cumin and olive oil. Although pomegranate molasses and Aleppo pepper may not be ingredients that you commonly have at home, they are two additions that I think make this dip sing. The pomegranate molasses add tartness to the dip that plays perfectly against the sweetness of the roasted red peppers, while on the other hand, the Aleppo pepper serves to add a slight heat and smokiness to the dish. You can find Aleppo pepper at any well stocked spice shop and pomegranate molasses can usually be found at Middle Eastern stores or even in some grocery stores. Although, this may not be traditional, I prefer to replace the breadcrumbs in the recipe with panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) because they add body to the dip while being lighter than breadcrumbs. You can also choose to omit the breadcrumbs entirely for a lighter dip.
This is a versatile dip that is delicious served as an appetizer along with pita bread or challah, but would be equally delicious as an addition to a sandwich or alongside grilled meat, vegetables or tofu. It can even be eaten at breakfast, as is the case in Israel. This is an addictive dip that I haven’t been able to get enough of since I first made it and I think that it is an addition to any table, that will be appreciated for its mix of relatively common ingredients to make a dip that is anything but ordinary.
4-5 large roasted red bell peppers – you may roast the red peppers yourself but you can also used jarred roasted peppers
1 cup walnuts
¾ cup breadcrumbs or panko
2-3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses – how much you add will depend on how tart you would like the dip to be
Juice of half a lemon
3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, or more if the dip is too thick
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
½-1 teaspoon salt
1 or 2 sprigs of flat-leafed parsley to garnish
Put all the ingredients except the parsley in a food processor or a blender and blend until smooth. Refrigerate the muhammara for at least two hours before serving so that the flavors can meld. Serve at room temperature, garnished with the sprigs of parsley.