Muhammara

muhammara

We’re having an impromptu New Year’s Eve “party” tonight. I put party in quotations because we’re not exactly a wild bunch. We’re having food, alcohol, and friends on NYE, so I feel like it qualifies as a party, but we’re doing a lot more playing of board games than dancing on tables.

I’ve wanted to make muhammara for awhile now and tonight seemed like a good night! It’s really pretty easy to make, especially if you have a decent food processor. I mostly followed the recipe of my old faithful, Yotam Ottolenghi, for this one. If it’s any type of food from the greater Middle East, I feel like he makes it and makes it well! Muhammara originates from Aleppo, Syria, so the use of Aleppo pepper in the dish just feels important and necessary to me. Unfortunately, the civil war in Syria has greatly decreased world-wide supply of Aleppo pepper.* (*Obviously, this is not the most important negative impact of the Syrian civil war.) But with that in mind, if you don’t have any/can’t find any, you can substitute a smaller quantity of crushed red pepper flakes. (Aleppo pepper isn’t quite as spicy and has a deeper depth of flavor + a slight sweetness as compared to crushed red pepper. Some suggest a mixture of sweet paprika & cayenne/crushed red pepper is a okay approximation.) This spread is popular from Syria through Turkey and the Caucasus, with some regional variations. The main ingredients always include red pepper and walnuts (the basis of the dip), Aleppo pepper, and olive oil.

Also, for your party hosting pleasure, this recipe would be very easy to scale up. This yielded ~ 2 cups.

Hope you enjoy!

Happy New Year!! 🎉🎇🥂🖤

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Muhammara

(Adapted slightly from Ottolenghi)
Ingredients: 
  • 3 red bell peppers
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs [I actually used cracker crumbs – crushed matzoh from our Potato Latkes the other night]
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp Aleppo pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2/3 cup walnut pieces
  • Salt to taste
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice bell peppers in half, removing the stems & seeds, and place on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and roast until blackened and blistering, ~30-35 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, grind up the walnuts in a food processor. You want them to be fairly finely ground, but still have some texture. Set to the side.
  3. Peel the skin off of the red peppers once they are cool enough to handle.
  4. Place peppers, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, bread crumbs, cumin, Aleppo pepper, and garlic in the food processor. Pulse until well-combined. Again, don’t over-process and destroy all of the texture.
  5. By hand, stir in the walnuts into the rest of the ingredients.
  6. Add salt to taste.
  7. When serving, top with a drizzle of olive oil. Serve at room temperature.
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Spicy Feta Dip

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Ok y’all, I know I say things like this all the time, but… This dip is SO easy to make and SO worth it. Bring this to your next family gathering, book club, or just make it for tomorrow’s dinner! It’s spicy without being overpowering. And everyone loves feta cheese!

On that note, now is a good time to talk about feta again. There is feta cheese and then there is feta cheese. If you bring someone from Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Israel, France, or, you know, basically anywhere else in the world, to the United States and show them the crumbly stuff that we sell in our grocery stores as feta – prepare to be laughed at. It is just nowhere near as good as what they have. But fear not! We Americans now have access to much better qualities of feta (usually imported from Europe or the Middle East) pretty easily here. Trader Joe’s & Whole Foods will always have some, your local grocery store might in some areas, and if those all fail, it’ll give you the opportunity to check out your nearest Middle Eastern market or international food shop! Look for feta in blocks, usually in brine. It’ll be wet and have some holes in it. While it crumbles easily between your fingers, it shouldn’t be dry and pre-crumbled for you. Believe me, I was a lover of American grocery store feta for years, so I’m not judging. But do yourself a favor and upgrade! Mmmmmm… feta 🙂

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Also, you may have noticed if you read our blog semi-regularly (heyyy Baba, Aunt Suzanne, Mom 🙋🙋🙋), that we share recipes that make a wide variety of serving sizes. For example our Garlic & Truffle Pimento Cheese basically feeds an army, while this dip was easily eaten by the two of us tonight. This just goes to show you that we only share what we’re actually making for ourselves at any given time. We ate this dip with crudites to accompany some lahmacun tonight (perfect combo in case you were wondering!).

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Spicy Feta Dip

(Recipe adapted from Sultan’s Kitchen: A Turkish Cookbook, by Özcan Ozan)
Ingredients: 
  • 6oz feta
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • Juice from a lemon wedge
Instructions: 
  1. Pulse all ingredients together in a food processor until smooth.
  2. Refrigerate until serving.
  3. Top with a drizzle of olive oil when serving, if desired.
Serves 4 as an appetizer

Raspberry Mint Vinaigrette

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Once upon a time, I used to buy salad dressing in stores. But a few years ago, I realized how easy it is to make a vinaigrette at home. The greatest part of it for me is that I’m not committed to a single salad dressing until I finish the bottle. One night I’ll use a balsamic vinegar base and the next night I can go Asian with a rice wine vinegar base.  There are also some health benefits to making your own vinaigrette. (I’m not judging you for your store-bought salad dressing, promise. Even as I’m extolling the virtues of making my own, I still have a bottle of one of my faves – Trader Joe’s Sweet Onion & Bacon Vinaigrette – in the fridge. And don’t even get me started on their Champagne Vinaigrette – yummmmm! I’m just pointing out another good reason to try making your own!) Salad dressings are notorious for having significant amounts of salt and sugar. When you make your own, you control those levels! And obviously, you’re not adding any preservatives or anything to make it shelf stable. Since I’ve been playing around with making my own dressings, I’ve learned (or maybe just confirmed) one thing. I love vinegar! Standard vinaigrette recipes call for 3-4 parts oil to one part vinegar – I generally use less oil for each part vinegar. I hope you enjoy it my way! We used this raspberry mint vinaigrette tonight over a shaved vegetable salad, and it was delicious!

Raspberry Mint Vinaigrette

Ingredients: 
  • 1/2 cup raspberries
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 5 large mint leaves, chopped
  • 3 turns fresh ground black pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Puree the raspberries.
  2. Whisk together the pureed berries with the rest of the ingredients. {It’s that easy.}
Makes ~3/4 cup of dressing

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Simple Green Crema

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In mental preparation for a dinner of Baked Jerk Chicken Wings, I knew I needed a cooling contrast to those fiery-hot wings. I mentally tossed around a few ideas while perusing Pinterest. When I came across this blog and recipe while Pinteresting, I knew I found the perfect accompaniment! It was, and since we’ve been using the crema for all sorts of different dishes. It is incredibly versatile. Not only have we topped the chicken wings with it, but also a nice spice-rubbed steak. It works well as a sauce spread inside of a wrap with just about any protein and vegetable (our easy, go-to weeknight dinner). Try it as a dip for crudites, spread on a cracker, or as an alternative to your boring ketchup next time you have potatoes wedges. The possibilities are endless 😉

Simple Green Crema

(Adapted from this recipe at Turning Clock Back)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/4 cup Mexican table cream*
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Pinch of salt & pepper
*Many standard grocery store chains carry crema or Mexican table cream these days – usually in the cheese section or by the sour cream. If not, it can be found in a Mexican grocery, or substituted with sour cream.
Instructions: 
  1. Wait for it, this is super complex.
  2. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor. Blend.
  3. Chill before serving.