Muhammara (also known as ajika) is a spicy pepper dip that originally hails from Syria but is also found in Palestinian, Lebanese and Turkish cuisine. It is usually very hot and used sparingly as a condiment, but here I have toned down its spiciness so you can enjoy it as a dip with vegetables or crackers.
Like so many Mediterranean spice-herb-nut pastes, this is often eaten as a dip with warm pita bread, as a sauce for kebabs, grilled meats, and fish. It’s also quite delicious stirred into chickpea or lentil stews, forked into pasta, or as an accompaniment to a simple plate of rice and beans.Even simpler: slather it onto a freshly toasted slice of sourdough bread, top with a poached or fried egg and enjoy a deliciously Mediterranean breakfast.
Roasted red pepper & walnut dip (muhammara)
- 3 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
- 12 oz roasted bell peppers in brine, drained; I use Cento's roasted peppers
- 1½ cups walnuts
- 1 clove garlic finely minced
- 1 tsp smoked paprika powder
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- pinch chili powder I like to use chipotle powder for its smoky flavor
- 1 tsp lemon juice freshly pressed, if possible
- 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses a syrupy reduction of pomegranate juice, available in Middle-Eastern supermarkets or online; if you can't find it, balsamic vinegar reduction works, too
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper freshly ground
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the walnuts on a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes until fragrant. Remove and cool.
- Meanwhile, tip the peppers into a sieve and drain off the brine (don't rinse).
- Put roasted peppers into a food processor along with all the other ingredients. Process for about 30 seconds, stop to scrape any bits off the sides with a spatula, then process again until smooth. Don’t worry if small nut chunks remain – this gives the dip an interesting texture.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately, accompanied by raw vegetables (for instance, raw fennel wedges, carrots, sugar snap peas, celery sticks).
- If you plan to store it longer, cover the surface with a thin film of olive oil to prevent spoilage. Refrigerated in a tightly sealed container this keeps for 4-5 days.