I had never heard of or tasted muhammara before until I met the folks at California Lavash. Every time I met with their team, I would hear how exquisite it tasted. In all seriousness, when you hear about a combination of walnuts, charred red bell peppers, fresh pomegranate seeds, lemon juice, garlic, mint, salt and pepper, it’s difficult to imagine how it couldn’t taste amazing!
To thicken the texture of the dip, I added bread and extra virgin olive oil, and balanced the flavors with dates, a hint of ground cumin and red chili powder. You could use it as a dip served with toasted pita bread or cucumber and celery sticks but in my case, I used it as a spread for a roasted lamb sandwich. It was delicious!
Servings: 4 servings
3 large red bell peppers
½ cup walnuts
1-2 slices bread
juice of half a lemon, freshly squeezed
1 pomegranate (see tips), seeds only
4 pitted dates, to taste
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, to taste
2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper flakes (or regular red chili powder)
1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
1½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper, coarsely ground
Little reminder on how to roast the bell pepper: Stem and wash the bell peppers and pat dry. Place a grill on your stove and char the skin of the peppers. Wrap in aluminum foil. Let cool for about 5-10 minutes until you can handle them without discomfort. Clean the peppers with a knife; the skin will come right off. Seed them and cut the flesh into large chunks.
Roasting nuts: To release the flavor and oil of the nuts, I like to roast them in the oven before using them. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet. Place the tray in a preheated oven at 170°F. Roast the nuts for about 15 minutes. Let them cool completely. Rub the nuts between your hands; the skins should come off easily. Coarsely chop them. Do not roast at a temperature over 170°F or you'll risk breaking healthy fats and lose all the nutrients.
Reserve a few pomegranate seeds for garnish.
In a blender, combine all the ingredients, except for the oil and spices. Blend until smooth. Slowly add the extra-virgin olive oil and pulse until you have a thick consistency. Season with salt.
Place in a serving bowl. Decorate with the reserved pomegranate seeds. Sprinkle with pepper and garnish with a sprig of mint.
You could thin this roasted bell pepper dip with more pomegranate juice and mustard (as a binder for the vinaigrette) and use it as a salad dressing. Combine lettuce, a few roasted nuts and cubed Gouda cheese and you'll have a delicious first course.
I used dates as a sweetener and thickener for the dip. You could use any other sweeteners such honey or sugar and add more bread or breadcrumbs for texture.
Little reminder on how to seed a pomegrante on the following link.