Of all the tasty little meze dishes that have passed through my kitchen in recent weeks—and oh, there have been many—this muhammara is certainly our favorite. It’s a thick, rich, flavorful paste of roasted red peppers and walnuts, spicy with harissa and just a touch exotic with the sweet-tart, unplaceable flavor of pomegranate molasses. Watch around the table: the first bite prompts a moment’s confusion, a second take, another bite, a smile. “What IS this?” It’s muhammara.
There it is, just to the left of the spinach salad. (The recipe below makes twice the amount shown, so you may want to halve the recipe if you’ll be serving it with a good selection of other dishes.) A recent introduction to the dish at a local restaurant sent me down the rabbit hole of the many Middle Eastern variations of the dish, which of course reminded me to make hummus and find a few other little things to serve alongside the two, like little salads and harissa and bulgur with chickpeas and lemony tahini and pickled things. As if Jerusalem weren’t inspiration enough, I’ve been reading my way through Claudia Roden’s books and marking page after page, so you can see how I’ve been too busy cooking and eating to write.
Do you have recommendations for my meze spread?
Muhammara (adapted from The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden): In your food processor, combine all of the ingredients: 4 roasted and peeled red peppers (I confess to having used a 12-ounce jar), 1-2 Tbsp. harissa paste (to taste, and depending on how hot your harissa is), 2 toasted slices of whole wheat bread, torn into chunks, 1 1/2 c. shelled walnuts, 2 pressed garlic cloves, 3 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses, the juice of a lemon, 1 tsp. sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 c. olive oil. Pulse a few times, then blend to a coarse paste, leaving a bit of chunky texture.