I recently expressed my love for garbanzo beans in my falafel post, and it’s very true that we eat a LOT of them around here, in the form of hummous especially. My daughter eats it by the spoonful and Jeff and I like it with almost everything. But every now and then I remember that there are a few other spreads I love almost as much but forget to keep in regular rotation. Luckily, I am always thinking of them somewhere in the back if my mind when I go food shopping and when I woke up this morning in the mood to make Muhammara, I was able to find a jar of roasted red peppers right there on the counter next to the dried pasta and unopened soy milk containers.
Muhammara, is a Turkish spread made with roasted red peppers and walnuts. In the past couple of years it has become more common to see it on restaurant and cafe menus (for a pretty penny of course– it’s….”exotic”!). In the Boston/Cambridge food scene this may have something to do with the influence of Chef Ana Sortum, of Oleana and Sofra, whose emphasis on middle eastern and north african foods and spices has broadened locals’ expectations way beyond falafel and hummous.
Muhammara is incredibly simple to make in a food processor. If you don’t have a processor you could use a blender- just make sure to chop everything very finely before blending. I use jarred roasted red peppers in mine, but you could certainly roast and peel your own if you prefer. This recipe also calls for pomegranate molasses which can be found in middle eastern markets and some specialty food shops. Around my way you can purchase it at Formaggio and Christina’s (always call first to be sure). Pomegranate molasses is a tart-sweet syrup that keeps for a LONG time and looks like this:
If you cannot find it in your area, the muhammara tastes almost as good without it and no one will know it’s missing.
Getting to it:
Wash and dry peppers well and set on a baking sheet. Put oven rack in top third of the oven and set oven to broil. Broil peppers for 5-7 minutes then turn with tongs and roast other side for additional 5-7 minutes. Check to make sure peppers are not blackening too quickly. They should be blackened in spots but not burnt to a crisp. The skin should have a mottled, bubbly appearance. When peppers are evenly roasted remove from oven and put into paper bag or bowl covered with a plate. Allow peppers to steam off their skins for 10-15 minutes and remove from bowl. When they are cool enough to handle, rub off skins and remove flesh, set aside. Discard skin, stem and seeds.
Muhammara – Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Spread, adpated from the Gourmet Cookbook edited by Ruth Reichl
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
One 7-oz jar roasted red bell peppers, drained and patted very dry, or 2 medium sized red bell peppers, roasted as described above.
1/3 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
2/3 cup fine whole wheat bread crumbs
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
2 tsp pomegranate molasses (or 1 tsp sugar/agave)
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Using a large knife, mince and mash garlic to a paste with salt then transfer to the food processor (I just throw the garlic and salt in the processor and blend them together). Add the red peppers, bread crumbs, walnuts, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, cumin and red pepper flakes and blend until smooth. Add oil in a slow stream until thoroughly combined.
Transfer to a serving container and serve with pita toasts or chips (I like mine with a fried egg). Muhammara will keep in the fridge for about a week.