Sunday, March 16, 2008

more mezze

many variations exist for this simple appetizer recipe called ma'hammara (aka muhammara). with just one bite of it, you'll be hooked! like all recipes, the differences in ingredients used, quantities or proportions and method are based upon the country of origin and the (ethnic) group who is preparing it. no doubt this was originally prepared by hand with a mortar and pestle or having all ingredients chopped finely and then mixed together. today, it can be quickly and easily made in a food processor or blender.

this unctuous red and spicy spread is said to have its origins in syria however it is made and served in many a country in the middleast and {eastern} mediterranean. the original syrian version includes aleppo pepper which can still be bought today from places like kaluystan's in new york city or establishments like dean and deluca that sell more specialized ingredients. if you can get your hands on it, use it by all means. ma'hammara was one of several mezze appetizers to show up on our table for holidays and sabbath celebrations; the following rendition is how i know it.

there are some special instructions, or tips if you want to call it that, that i've explained in the recipe so be sure to read it through before starting. they are important for the final outcome. one thing that has recently come to my attention again, and something i have noted in the past, is the use of very little oil in many a recipe. when you see something that says 2 tsps or 2 tbsp, move on ..... it's more like 1/2 c of oil! that's what gives it its final luscious texture. if you're worried about fat content, remember it's olive oil which is good for you — and unless you live alone and are voraciously hungry for ma'hammara, are you really going to eat the whole thing by yourself in one sitting? LOL.

walnut & roasted red pepper appetizer

makes ~ 2 cups (16 oz)


3 large red peppers (capsicum type) - roasted, peeled & seeded
2 - 4 cloves garlic

~1 c (100 - 120 g) walnuts*
1 small pita bread or 1 or 2 slices wholewheat bread or similar**

1/2 lemon, juiced
1 - 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses ("dibs" [ruman]) or balsamic vinegar
1/2 -1 tsp salt
1 - 2 tsp sugar
1 tsp harissa paste OR 1 red (fresh chili seeded)
OR 1/2 tsp paprika + ~ 1/2 tsp chili powder OR chili flakes
1/2 - 1 tsp paprika, optional
(you can use smoked or hot paprika but be careful not to overdo it if using hot paprika)
1/2 tsp (or more) ROASTED cumin powder

8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided: 6 tbsp + 2 tbsp

*they MUST be toasted first or you will end up with a flat raw tasting appetizer dish. do not roast them for too long though as they can turn bitter.

**either leave the pita or wholewheat bread out to dry overnight OR dry it in the oven or toaster or microwave. i use an 7 or 8 inch sized pita; you may not need to use the whole thing.


there are two ways to do this — one is by processing all in successive steps in the food processor. often, people will overprocess so i am giving the directions in the other way, which is to combine and mix. some people find this easiest.

roast your red peppers either in an oven at 425F turning every so often or in a grill pan (or over the hobs of a gas oven). allow them to cool (covered in a container) and then peel the skin off. remove the veins and seeds and cut them in large pieces.

i use preroasted turkish red peppers which come in a jar and are different from the standard capsicum type. they are a bitter spicier and have a different shape (longer and thinner). either work fine for this recipe, however.

the good part is that the preroasted ones just require remove a few seeds and cutting them up.

n.b. before grinding the bread and walnuts, make SURE they are both at room temperature and are not hot or warm. this will cause them to fuse together as the oils have not resolidified in the walnuts and there is moisture in the bread.

take the bread and place it in the food processor. run the machine by pulsing to break up the bread. if you are using pita, you may not need to use the whole thing -- you'll have to experiment and see. give the bread a quick process before adding the nuts to break it up smaller.

add the walnuts and process until it is fairly smooth but remains a bit textured. place this in a bowl.

place the garlic in the same processor bowl and chop it up finely. be judicious with your garlic as adding too much will ruin it. i use two large ones. if your cloves of garlic are small, use 3 or 4 to compensate. if using a fresh red chili, add it to the garlic at the same time.

into the garlic, add the red pepper pieces and pulse the processor until it is chopped.

now run the machine and pour the 6 tbsp of oil into it and let it process until it turns orangey-red and lightens.
you will have small flecks of red. do NOT overprocess your mixture.

add the red pepper paste to the walnut-bread mixture and stir.

add the salt, sugar, ONLY 1 tbsp pomegranate syrup or balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, paprika (if using) and cumin.

mix again and taste. adjust the cumin, salt and sugar. add the second tbsp of pomegranate syrup or vinegar if needed. the colour will be less red at this point.

let the mixture sit for about 2 hours minimum.

place the mixture in a dish or spread it on a plate and drizzle the last 2 tbsp olive oil on top before serving. garnish with mint sprigs and serve with fresh pita or dried pita "chips". it is also very good with challah bread.



Anonymous said...

This looks delicious, I will have to try this one of these days.Thanks for the recipe, Burekaboy

Margaret Polaneczky, MD (aka TBTAM) said...

This is one I'm definitely trying. Confused, though, as to why there is bread in it when you're going to dip breaad in it anyway. Have you ever made it without the bread? Or do the walnuts make it too grainy without the bread?

burekaboy — said...

hi yael - you're welcome :) it really is good -- different from the regular hummus v'salat hatzilim. hope you like it, if you decide to give it a try.

tbtam - the bread crumbs are there to act as a binding agent; without them the mixture will be loose and grainy. it also helps to absorb the liquids -- lemon juice, oil, pomegranate syrup, etc. you can try using half the amount of breadcrumbs or even go ahead a make it without (add later if needed) but i have never done it like that and really don't recommend or put my seal of approval on it ;) in any case, give it a go and see what you think.

Anonymous said...

this seems delicious! i make a very simmilar mezze, same ingredients, no bread but sardines in olive oil in it, all mashed up to make a spread. i'm sure my dish derives directly from this you've posted about.
what's been of "if looks could kill"?

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A wonderful dip! I'll wait for the summer in order to make it...



burekaboy — said...

sari - it is really yum! i actually tried something (similar) with sardines but i couldn't stand it. tasted odd.....

rosa - it's a good appetizer or dip for brunches and picnics.

Lakshmi said...

Hi BB,
LOng time..did not visit your blog. I love all your posts, so detailed, well written and well presented. Will try to make this dip sometimes, looks spicy...

burekaboy — said...

hi LG - happy to see you again! thanks for the re-visit and the nice comment :)

the dip is actually as spicy as you want to make it. some people prefer it on the mild side. i like it spicier :) hope you like it if you decide to give it a try.