This is So Much More Than Can Be Described in a Simple Title.
This dip, known as Muhammara, is said to have originated in Aleppo, Syria, but is now ubiquitous in many Middle Eastern communities. Roasted red bell peppers, walnuts, bread crumbs, pomegranate molasses, Aleppo pepper, cumin and olive oil are combined into what is usually a dip or spread-like consistency. It tastes sweet, nutty, a little spicy, and earthy. Over time, I’ve tweaked it until I’ve come up with my own particular favorite version. There is nothing authentic about my recipe. This is simply how I like it best.
The central ingredients are roasted red bell peppers. Yes, you can buy them already roasted in jars. But I’ve yet to taste any of those which remotely compare to the ones you roast yourself. And they’re easy. I split them in half, place them on a foil lined sheet pan, put them under the broiler until they’re blackened, enclose in the foil to allow them to steam until they’re cool enough to handle, and then peel off the blistered skins. The flavor and texture are so much better than the ones packed in jars at the supermarket.
The next thing I do a little differently is rather than pulverizing the peppers to a puree in the food processor, I only very briefly pulse them. I like for some chunkiness to remain. I treat the walnuts similarly because I want some larger pieces of nuts to be evident. This is simply the texture I like best.
The same thing goes for the texture of the fresh bread crumbs I use here. I don’t grind them up super fine. I keep them on the coarse side. When I mix the peppers, walnuts, and bread crumbs with olive oil, pomegranate molasses, cumin, Aleppo pepper, and salt, I use an old fashioned hand held potato masher in order to get the exact texture I like. You can see my technique in the video below. By not pulsing everything together in the food processor, I have much more control over the outcome and I easily get the chunky texture I like best.
I add a little hot chili oil in order to give it a little more heat, not a lot, but enough to keep it interesting. I happened to have purchased what I thought was a typical chili oil/paste. When wandering the aisles of my local Vietnamese owned market, I always like to try different products or brands. Well, in this case I bought a jar from Thailand of what was labeled Fried Chilli Paste – Extra Hot. My son and I now call it “The Hottest Thing In The Entire World”. We both have a high tolerance for heat, but this one is mind boggling. I only used 1/4 teaspoon in my dip. That amount did the trick.
Besides topping it with olive oil, pomegranate arils, and sliced scallions, I did something different an sprinkled on a healthy amount of ground black lime.. We each ended up adding even more black lime to our individual servings. It’s pungent flavor is excellent here. It beautifully accents the warm and sweet flavors of the dip and I will eat it this way from here on out.
I served this as a type of mezze meal – one of my favorite ways to enjoy food. I baked up a couple loaves of King Arthur’s Ekmek (Turkish Flatbread) recipe , put out some of my pickles, and a bowl of marinated labneh. I love scooping up the dip with roughly torn pieces of warm fresh bread, spreading some soft labneh on more of that bread, with bites of pickles in between. It’s also a feast for the eyes, but most importantly, every bite is deeply satisfying.