Okay, so do you guys remember that scene in Sex and the City 2 when Carrie runs into Aidan at that souk in Abu Dhabi and he lures her to his hotel under the pretense that they have the best muhammara in the city, where they eventually end up (spoiler alert!) kissing? Well, I am not going to use this post to explain which man I think she should have chosen, but I will tell you that was the first time I ever heard of muhammara. Muhammara is a Middle-Eastern roasted red pepper spread, made with toasted walnuts, garlic, pomegranate molasses and olive oil. It’s smoky, nutty, sweet and acidic, all at the same time. It’s commonly served as a dip, but it’s also perfect as a sandwich condiment, or alongside grilled meats.
When I was in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, we had dinner at Superba Food and Bread and ordered their muhammara toast with burrata as an appetizer. That was the first time I tasted it and it was enough to turn me into a believer. It reminded me of Russian roasted eggplant spread; and since I’m a sucker for funky dips (like baba ganoush and bean dips), I knew I’d have to make it chez moi.
This muhammara recipe mostly consists of ingredients you likely have on hand or can find easily in stores – except for pomegranate molasses. This Middle-Eastern condiment is actually not molasses at all; it’s concentrated pomegranate juice. Equal parts sweet and sour, it is used to add depth to sauces and braises. I didn’t want to buy a whole bottle just for one recipe so I decided to substitute with the next best thing – reduced balsamic vinegar – which yielded excellent results. If you’d rather use pomegranate molasses, the proportion would be about the same.
Here’s to you, Aidan Shaw!
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup jarred roasted red peppers
- ½ cup walnuts, toasted
- ¼ cup plain bread crumbs
- 2 small garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 baguette, cut into ⅓" thick slices, toasted
- 2 oz softened goat cheese
- 2 persian cucumbers, sliced on a diagonal into ovals, then thinly sliced lengthwise
- Pour balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to a simmer and cook until thick and syrupy, 4-5 minutes.
- In a food processor, combine red peppers, 2 teaspoons reduced balsamic vinegar, walnuts, bread crumbs, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, cayenne and pinches of salt and pepper. Pulse until mixture begins to come together. With the motor running, pour olive oil into the chute of the food processor and puree until smooth. Taste and season with salt or lemon juice, if necessary. Muhammara can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- To serve, spread a generous tablespoon of muhammara on toasts and top with bits of goat cheese and cucumbers. Serve immediately.
What is your favorite dip or hors d’oeuvre to serve at parties?