Now that you’ve mastered hummus, try an equally delicious (yet not as widely known) Lebanese dip called muhammara (Moo-HAHM-mer-ah), a roasted red pepper puree seasoned with walnuts, pomegranate molasses and Aleppo pepper, a moderately spicy chile from Aleppo, Syria, a gourmet capital in the Middle East (see this great NPR segment).
I agree with Regina of Epi-Log – there’s nothing quite like the sweet heat of Aleppo pepper. This coarsely ground chile pepper is deep mahogany in color, with a smoky quality that some compare to ancho chiles with a little cumin mixed in. You might see it sold as halaby pepper or kirmizi biber.
Muhammara originated in Aleppo, but it’s now an integral part of Lebanese mezze and I enjoyed it several times during our trip to Lebanon this summer. It may take a bit more time to make compared to hummus, but muhammara rewards you with a multiplex of flavor – a little sweet, a little savory, a little spicy. There’s no reason this delectable dip should take a back seat to hummus and baba ghanoush. Try it once and you’ll be hooked. Muhammara is extremely flexible — just don’t consider it simply as a colorful dip on your party tray. The texture is hummus-like, so you can use in multiple ways — as a dip with pita chips, spread on crackers or flat bread, tossed in pasta (see Pasta with Muhummara Sauce from Taste of Beirut) or used as a sauce for grilled meats or kabobs (101 Cookbooks).
This was the first time I made muhammara so I set out to find Aleppo pepper, which I located at the Spice House in Chicago. It’s also available via penzeys.com.
You certainly can make it without Aleppo pepper if you can’t find it. You can try red pepper flakes or chile powder instead (especially ancho chile powder) or a mix of a mix of smoked paprika and cayenne pepper instead.
3/4 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
3 red bell peppers, roasted (or a jar of roasted red peppers, drained)
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1. Toast walnuts in a dry skillet over medium heat, shaking frequently, until fragrant and lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
2. Rinse roasted peppers well, remove any membranes or seeds, then dry with paper towels. Transfer to a food processor, along with walnuts, bread crumbs, garlic, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice and spices. Process until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides if necessary.
3. With the machine running, slowly pour in olive oil and process until combined. Taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Take a look at who’s making muhammara: