The first time I heard of, saw and tasted muhammara was the same day I had a bag of it literally tossed at me. Let me explain: I went into this small Turkish takeout restaurant during lunchtime with a friend one day, ordered a little container of it, waited in line and purchased it from the typically surly guy who is always at the register. On this particular day, however, this guy was especially irate. As my friend and I stood to the side waiting for our orders to be called, this guy came out from the behind the counter with my order and rudely tossed it at me. Although it was kind of embarrassing and insulting at the time, it was worth the mini-drama in the end … that muhammara was rich, tangy, bright orange and tasted amazing!
I haven’t had muhammara from that restaurant since then for obvious reasons, so I decided to make it myself this weekend with great results. The concept here is similar to hummus or baba ghanoush, and it was easy to replicate the flavor and texture to produce a very similar-tasting dish.
2 large red bell peppers or 2 large roasted jarred red bell peppers
1 piece of sandwich bread, any kind
1/3 cup walnuts
1 large shallot, sliced
4-6 gloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp tamarind paste or 1 tsp pomegranate molasses
1/2 tsp cumin
1 TB sriracha or 1 tsp red pepper flakes
If using fresh peppers, brush them all over with a thin coat of olive oil and place them on a hot grill. Roast each side about 4 minutes, until they are charred and black all over. Then place them into a deep pot and cover with aluminum foil for about 15 minutes. Rub off any of the black char, then chop off the stem, and scrape out the seeds. Set aside.Toast the piece of bread, then cut off the crusts and place it into a food processor. Pulse a few times to create breadcrumbs. Add the roasted red pepper to the food processor and pulse again.
Place a small sautepan on your stovetop and let it become very warm over medium heat, about two minutes. Place the walnuts into the pan for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, and then transfer them to the food processor.Place about a teaspoon of olive oil into the same saute pan and add in the shallot slices. Saute for about a minute, then toss in the garlic for about a minute more, stirring to prevent the garlic from burning. Transfer this to the food processor, then pulse a few more times.
Add in the rest of the ingredients, then pulse again until the desired smoothness is achieved. Serve with crackers or pita wedges. Also tastes fantastic on toast or as a sauce for grilled tofu.