So, about that little birthday shindig.
It was a totally last minute thing. I sent out an email to a whole bunch of friends and bought several bottles of bubbly – prosecco, franciacorta, and champagne – from the restaurant the day before my birthday. I spent the morning of the big day scrambling to get everything together.
I gathered a selection of cheese and then paired each one – aged cheddar with pear slices, brie with spicy schug, and manchego with tart cherry and apricot jam. I’m partial to the thin crackers these days, particularly those from Waterwheel, 34º, and Finn Crisp.
And then, to keep things healthy, I sliced some peppers and pulled apart a bunch of endive leaves for dipping.
As far as the dips, I made two.
The first is muhammara, If you haven’t yet met, let me get you properly acquainted. Muhamarra is a Syrian red pepper spread, thickened with walnuts and bread crumbs. It’s tangy with pomegranate molasses and has a smoky heat that builds bite by bite. I add a little silan – date honey – for sweetness. It’s one of those throw-everything-in-the-food-processor-and-push-a-button recipes. It’s a nice alternative to hummus
And speaking of hummus, twenty minutes before my guests were slated to arrive, I decided I didn’t have enough food, so I rinsed out my food processor and threw together a quick batch.
It was nice having an open house rather than a full-out dinner. People popped in for some nibbles and a glass (or two) of bubbles; some stayed, others rushed home to relieve babysitters, and friends from different parts of my life had a chance to meet.
Even after making a care package for my sister to take home, I had enough leftover muhammara for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I spread it on toast and topped it with egg. I slathered it on a baguette with grilled chicken breast. I tossed it with pasta. And once I exhausted my supply, I made a batch to bring to the restaurant to share with my team. So, Cat, this recipe is for you, but please bring back my bowl!
This recipe is adapted from Claudia Roden‘s The Book of Jewish Food, Gourmet, and Sweet Amandine. I like my muhammara smooth and the consistency of hummus, but I typically see it more coarsely ground. Depending on the consistency that you’d like, you can thicken with extra walnuts and breadcrumbs or thin with olive oil. Bear in mind that the muhammara will thicken in the refrigerator and as the breadcrumbs absorb liquid.
Muhammara is not the prettiest of spreads, so I like to swirl it into a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of pomegranate arils and parsley.
Makes 2 1/2 cups
– 1 16-oz roasted peppers in jar, drained
– 1 1/2 C walnuts, toasted
– 1/2 C panko breadcrumbs
– 3 T pomegranate molasses
– 2 T lemon juice
– 2 t silan (date honey) or honey
– 1 1/2 t cumin
– 1/2 t cayenne
– 1/2 t sweet paprika
– 3 cloves garlic, minced
– 1/2 t salt (to taste)
– 2 – 4 T olive oil
– chopped parsley and pomegranate arils for garnish
Mix. In a food processor, blend together the peppers, walnuts, breadcrumbs, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, silan, spices, garlic, and salt until smooth. With the motor running, pour in 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a steady stream until creamy. Tweak the consistency – if too thick, add more oil; if too thin, add more nuts and/or breadcrumbs.
Serve. Garnish with olive oil, pomegranate arils, and parsley.
Store. Muhammara keeps in the refrigerator for 3-4 days and it freezes beautifully.