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February, 2010

Syrian Roasted Red Pepper Dip with Walnuts

By Heidi Allison

Looking for an new, intriguing vegetarian dish to add to your culinary repertoire? This uber-healthy, vegan dip offers up a new flavor profile making it a welcome change to hummus and baba ghanouj
.

Served in Syria and Turkey under the moniker, Muhammara, this iconic, garlicky, walnut spread appears with wedges of fried pita bread or ice-cold lettuce spears as an appetizer. But, Muhammara is not limited to being merely a Middle Eastern meze— it does double duty as flavorful sandwich spread, as a smear on egg dishes or topping extraordinaire for grilled fish!

Red Bell Pepper

In this multi-culti-standout dish, the flavor is rich and complex—the roasted red pepper puree is enhanced with hefty doses of fresh garlic, toasted cumin, Aleppo pepper and tangy-sweet pomegranate molasses to create a flavor that’s a little sweet, a little savory and a little spicy— and, totally addictive! The walnuts serve as a both a binder and thickening agent in this recipe, and must be cooked prior to combining them with the rest of the ingredients, or, the dip falls flat, While Syrians boil the walnuts to transform their slightly bitter taste and soften its texture, a lot of the walnuts healthy oils are lost in the tossed poaching water. I found that roasting the walnuts at a very low temperature for a long period of time is a more effective culinary technique for coaxing out this nuts’ sweet taste while retaining their impressive health benefits. The only caveat: the finished dip must sit least 24 hours before serving to allow its bold flavors to mellow. Walnuts are a nutritional powerhouse providing an excellent source of omega-3 s, a protective fat the body cannot produce. A mere ¼-cup serving supplies almost 91percent of your daily value for this healthy oil. Walnuts provide cardiovascular protection, improves cognitive function, strengthen the immune system and reduce inflammation in the body, an important health benefit for people that suffer from arthritis, asthma, eczema and psoriasis.

Syrian Roasted Red Bell Pepper Dip with Walnuts
Syrian Roasted Red Bell Pepper Dip with Walnuts
Makes: 2 cups

4 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled and seeded
3 cloves garlic, smashed (about 1 tablespoon)
Juice of ½ lemon
1 slice whole wheat bread, crusts removed
3 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup walnuts
1 tsp. Aleppo pepper flakes
4 tsp. Pomegranate molasses
1 oz. fresh cilantro leaves only
2 tsp. ground toasted cumin
¼ tsp. honey
1 Tbs. chopped Italian Parsley

Preparation:
Cut up the roasted bell peppers into 1-inch pieces and place in the blender. Add the remainder of the ingredients in the blender or processor and puree until smooth, stopping and scrapping the sides and bottom as necessary. Remove the vegetable dip from the blender into a bowl, cover and allow to sit in fridge for 24 hours before serving. Top with chopped parsley right before serving.

Notes from the Author:
Will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Serve at room temperature.