Let me start by saying I just love this Middle Eastern dip. It’s not like any other dip you’ve had but it’s not out of left-field-weird either. It’s just really tasty and sadly not well-known. I think it’s perfect to serve at Sunday/Monday football party with all your other party fare, perfect to bring along to a tailgate or potluck, and also perfect to serve at a dinner party. I’m posting this nice and early on a Sunday early during football season in hopes you might read, think ‘yummmm’, and whip some up for today’s game-watching.
Its fancy name is Muhammara which means “reddened” or “brick-colored” in Arabic. If you have picky/skiddish eaters, tell them it’s roasted red pepper dip and let them munch away. There are some strong flavors that go into this dip, but they meld so beautifully together you can’t really say “Whoa! Cumin! Garlic!” I usually make mine with almonds because we always have them around the house. Traditionally, this is made with walnuts. Use what strikes your fancy or what’s available in your pantry.
I’m going to give you two ways to make this: the tastiest and the fastest. The fastest is still tasty, but not as tasty as the tastiest. Got me? First, the tastiest. Slightly more time and effort but definitely worth it.
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Makes 2 – 2½ cups
2 – 3 red bell peppers
½ cup almonds, toasted (traditionally walnuts, use whichever you like)
½ cup bread crumbs, toasted
2 tsp cumin
1 clove garlic, more if you love it
½ tsp cayenne, more or less to your taste
½ tsp salt
1 tbl pomegranate molasses*
1 tbl lemon juice
2 – 3 tbl extra-virgin olive oil
* pomegranate molasses can be found in Middle Eastern markets or possibly in high-end supermarkets. If you find pomegranate concentrate (not frozen in the juice aisle) you could use that. You could make your own out of POM juice, sugar, and lemon juice (cook and reduce to a syrup – comment below for a recipe). You can also substitute with a teaspoon of regular molasses, a little extra lemon juice, and a teaspoon of honey. If you find the real stuff there are plenty of uses for it: drinks, dressings, marinades, baked goods.
First we’re going to roast the red peppers. It’s easy, I promise. If you really don’t want to roast your own, buy a jar of them (just roasted, not marinated). Home-roasted pepper flavor is worth the little bit of extra work though.
Turn on the broiler on high. Position an oven rack as close as you can get it to the broiler.
Cut the tops and bottoms off the peppers, pull the stem out. Next, remove the seeds from the middles and cut them once from top to bottom. You’re left with a wide rectangle of pepper. Cut it into 2 – 3” wide pieces. Lay all your pepper parts skin side up on a foil lined baking tray. Place on the rack you’ve positioned closest to the broiler. Broil the peppers for 10 – 15 minutes, until the skins are quite black and charred. If you don’t let them get dark enough they’ll be harder to skin. Get a large bowl and some saran wrap ready while they’re roasting away in there. As soon as they are blackened enough, remove the pan from the oven and transfer all the peppers to the bowl you set aside. It doesn’t have to be pretty, just dump them in. Cover the bowl with saran wrap and let them steam for 10 minutes. No peeking. This part of the process helps the pepper skin separate from the pepper meat.
Meanwhile, toast your almonds (or walnuts) in a dry frying pan on the stove top over medium high heat. Stir them or shake the pan every 15 seconds or so. Once you smell that amazing toasted almond smell, you know they’re done. Shake them around for a few more seconds then remove from the heat. They’ll keep toasting as long as they stay in that hot pan. I dump mine right into a food processor and let them cool a bit while I get everything else prepped. In the same hot pan, throw in your cumin and put back over medium high heat. If you need to toast your bread crumbs too, throw them in now. Stir the cumin and/or breadcrumbs pretty constantly. Again, when you smell toasted cumin/toasted breadcrumbs/both you’re pretty much done. Take the pan off the heat and set aside.
I like the grind up the almonds first to make sure they get evenly pulverized. Pulse the almonds several times in the food processor, using longer and longer pulses, until the almonds are like coarse sand. Peel the peppers and add those in. Add in the rest of the ingredients: garlic cloves, toasted cumin, breadcrumbs, cayenne, salt, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, and oil. Blend together in the food processor until you get a beautiful smooth brick-colored dip. Taste to see if it need more salt, cayenne, or lemon juice. Add in if necessary.
Place in a bowl covered with saran wrap in the fridge until ready to serve. The flavors meld together during this resting time. Yum! You can keep this in the fridge for 2 – 3 days. Serve with warmed soft pita wedges, pita chips, crackers, and/or veggies.
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Okay, now for the I-must-have-this-now-for-a-football-party directions.
Use jarred roasted red peppers,
Italian bread crumbs/panko/crushed-up leftover crackers/regular old bread torn into pieces,
cumin straight from the little jar
and already roasted almonds or regular walnuts.
Don’t toast anything. Throw these quick substitutes along with the rest of the ingredients listed in the longer version in the food processor all at once and whirr it up. You’ll have a really fast version of this dip and something pretty darn tasty to feed those hungry guests.
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This dip is great as a sandwich spread if you have any leftover. Last time I made this was for a vertical Zinfandel wine tasting. We started off with this, some sweet-hot almonds, and a Indian-spiced lentil dip. It went perfectly with the wine, a 2003 Jessup Cellars Estate Grown Zinfandel. This dip can hang with the fancy folk or next to some chicken wings and beer on a Sunday afternoon.