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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Zoodles with Roasted Chickpeas

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Have all you food-blog-readers out there heard of Yotam Ottolenghi? He’s an Israeli-born British chef who I absolutely love! He has restaurants in the UK, at least five cookbooks, a website full of traditional & inventive Middle Eastern recipes, and a weekly column in The Guardian. He also has one of the best, most gorgeous, most mouth-watering Instagram feeds to follow out there (@ottolenghi) – you probably want to start following him!

As your average American who doesn’t dine out in London often or subscribe to The Guardian, I hadn’t heard of Yotam Ottolenghi until a few years ago when my sister gave me one of his cookbooks for Christmas. I think I’ve mentioned it a few times on here, and if I haven’t I should, as it’s one of my favorites. It’s called Jerusalem and was authored by Ottolenghi and another chef named Sami Tamimi. I love this cookbook for its delicious recipes, gorgeous photography, random stories interspersed with the recipes, and the fact that it features recipes based on both chef-authors’ heritages. Both grew up in Jerusalem, but Ottolenghi is of Israeli-Jewish heritage, while Tamimi is of Palestinian-Arab descent. Throughout the cookbook, they show the similarities and pervasiveness of recipes traditional to both groups. Maybe my favorite section of the cookbook frames the struggles of Jerusalem’s various residents like this:

“Alas, although Jerusalemites have so much in common, food, at the moment, seems to be the only unifying force in this highly fractured place. The dialogue between Jews and Arabs, and often among Jews themselves, is almost nonexistent. It is sad to note how little daily interaction there is between communities, with people sticking together in closed, homogenous groups. Food, however, seems to break down those boundaries on occasion… It takes a giant leap of faith, but we are happy to take it – what have we got to lose? – to imagine that hummus will eventually bring Jerusalemites together, if nothing else will.”

I love the sentiment, and if anyone has the unifying hummus recipe, it’s probably these guys.

As I mentioned, Mr. Ottolenghi’s instagram feed is great, and I see posts from him (or his surrogates probably…) nearly every day. Said posts make me want to whip up his recipes, nearly every day. I must have seen something inspiring in recent days, because when confronted with my zoodles for tonight’s dinner, I felt an overwhelming desire to use some tahini. The tahini sauce I coated the zoodles with tonight is a scaled-down and warmed up version of the recipe in Jerusalem.

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Zoodles with Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients: 
  • 2 large zucchini
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained, rinsed, & dried
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp tahini paste
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Black pepper
  • 2 tbsp water
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Toss chickpeas in 1 tbsp olive oil + paprika, cumin, turmeric, and salt. Spread out on a cookie sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Stir up once about halfway through cooking time.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare zoodles. See here if you need a little help with that!
  4. Next, warm the other 1 tbsp of olive oil into a pan over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook for just about 3 minutes.
  5. Now lower the heat of the burner to a low. Wait a minute or two, then stir the tahini paste into the olive oil.
  6. Add the lemon juice and a turn or two of black pepper. Whisk together until well-combined. Add water by the tablespoon. (Don’t use all the water – or use more – if you’re happy with the consistency of the sauce.)
  7. Add the zoodles to the pan. Toss with the sauce. Cover and increase heat back to medium for 5 minutes.
  8. Portion out the zoodles into individual bowls. Top with the roasted chickpeas.
Serves 2.

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