Region: Arab Levant, Syria
Category: Antipasto, Meze, Tapas, and Hors d'Oeuvres
Arabs will reflexively tell you that the famous muhammara comes from Aleppo in Syria. This blend of walnuts, red bell peppers, pomegranate molasses, and bread used as a dip or a spread is indeed from Aleppo, but one can find it toward the north and east too, especially in southeastern Turkey and toward the Caucasus. It is an invitingly red color and its name derives, in fact, from the Arabic root word for red. Some cooks add onions to theirs. I collected this recipe the last time I was in Aleppo and I like to serve it with warm Arabic bread or as an accompaniment to grilled steaks, grilled fish, grilled kebabs, or just dipped into with Arabic bread. The red Aleppo pepper called for can usually be found in Middle Eastern markets. In Turkey, they call it kirmizi biber. Aleppo pepper can be ordered via http://www.penzeys.com/ and other purveyors listed under Food Products in LINKS.
[photo: Duane Winfield, in Clifford A. Wright, Little Foods of the Mediterranean]
Yield: Makes 2 cups
Preparation Time: 1 hour
1/4 pound walnuts
2 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs (from about 1 thick slice French or Italian bread, crust removed)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon coarsely ground red Aleppo pepper
2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded, cut into strips, and set in a colander to drain for 15 minutes
1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin seeds
1 teaspoon sugar
Place all the ingredients in a blender and process into a paste, stopping the blender and scraping it down when necessary. Refrigerate, but serve at room temperature. It will keep, refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks.
Roast the bell peppers over a grill or in a 425 degrees
F oven until charred and blistered black all over, about 40 minutes in the
oven, less on the grill.