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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Baklava

baklava3

Filo dough can be very intimidating to work with.  It’s hard to find, not used in American cuisine, and requires patience to handle.  We learned that filo dough originated in the kitchens of Topkapı Palace, where the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire once lived.  When people think of filo dough, most think of decadent sweets like baklava, but filo dough is also be used for savory snacks like borek (filo layered with spinach & feta).  We haven’t made borek yet, but trust us, it’ll be on the blog soon enough.

topkapi
Gate to Topkapi Palace

Naturally, when we started to make baklava, we had to call my father, Baba (Turkish for father), since he’s our resident Turkish food expert.  He loves the blog and hopefully will love the shout out as well.  He gave us some tips for how to make the best baklava possible and include how finely to grind the walnuts, how thick the walnut layer should be, and also that the best baklava sets for a couple days to really absorb all the sweet syrup.  Baba also shared a great story from when he was a child and my Babaanne (father’s mother = grandmother) would make baklava, she would have to lock the finished baklava in another room so my father and his siblings wouldn’t eat it all before it was perfectly set.  Of course, we had to try it as soon as we poured the syrup over it… but when we tried it again for breakfast the next day, we both agree that it only gets better as it sets for a day or two.

We hope you enjoy this decadently sweet treat, your sweet tooth will thank us.

Baklava

(Adapted from the cookbook Sultan’s Table, by Ozçan Ozan with tips from Selim’s father)
Ingredients: 
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 3 cups + 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 cups (~300g) walnuts
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted, clarified butter
  • 40 sheets of filo dough (usually 2 packages)
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. (If you have clarified butter, melt the appropriate amount. If you only have regular butter, melt it in a saucepan and then skim off the foam and slowly pour the liquid into a bowl making sure to not transfer solid milk fats which are at the bottom.)
  3. Prepare the syrup: combine cold water and 3 cups of sugar in a medium saucepan. Boil for 5 minutes, then lower heat to a simmer. Continue cooking for another 15 minutes.
  4. Stir in the lemon juice and allow to cool.
  5. Meanwhile, combine walnuts and 2 tbsp sugar in food processor. Process until “medium” ground – don’t let it get too fine.
  6. Now brush the inside of a large cookie sheet with clarified butter.
  7. Place a sheet of filo dough in the pan. Brush with another little bit of clarified butter. Continue in this pattern until you’ve placed half of the sheets (~20) of filo dough in the pan.
  8. Now spread the walnut mixture onto the top layer of filo dough. Drizzle with more clarified butter.
  9. Return to the pattern of layering dough and clarified butter until you use all of the rest of the filo dough sheets. Brush the top layer and the edges with clarified butter.
  10. Take a very sharp knife and dip it into hot water. Slice down halfway through the height of the dough into the size and shape of baklava pieces you want at the end.
  11. Bake for 25 minutes in the center of the oven.
  12. Lower heat to 325 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes.
  13. Allow to sit for 10 minutes.
  14. Slice all the way through, along the lines you previously made.
  15. Pour the syrup over top, along the cut lines.
  16. Top with additional ground nuts if desired.