Feeling snacky? I feel snacky sometimes, more so now that at other times of the year, simply because we’re inside more, it’s colder, and the pantry somehow seems more seductive. If i’m not careful, my snacks can get incredibly boring: reach for the bag of pretzels, maybe some peanut butter, end scene. And that’s okay, but sometimes it’s nice to have something on hand that’s a wee bit more interesting than chips or hummus. This could, by the way, be considered another Things on a Plate installment.
By the way, if you’re eyeing those bowls and that platter, we’ll talk more about them in a minute.
So this is the part where I say that this dip is easy and that all you have to do is buy marinated olives and some respectable feta and you’re good to go. But then there’s a problem. The problem is that I also wanted to tell you, in this post, to make homemade pita bread to go with it. *looks down at ground*
BUT THEN I STOPPED MYSELF, because not everyone wants to do 283 projects in one day like I do (why, though?), so I’m saving the pitas for my next post. Let’s focus on the dip right now, which you can make ahead of time while you wait for the pitas post.
You may have heard of muhammara before. It’s from Aleppo (like the pepper!), Syria, and is also pretty common in Lebanese and Turkish cuisine. It has a gorgeous flavor profile – a seemingly odd but quite harmonious combination of (you guessed it) red pepper, walnuts, and pomegranate molasses, which you should remember from that time I made something with pomegranate molasses for my Feast Magazine column. Everyone makes it a little differently – you can mix it up with different spices or fresh herbs – but the result is a really flavorful, hearty dip that totally stands out from the crowd. And it takes no time to make: even more reason to make those pitas. Throw this on a vegetable tray sometime, because it beats the pants off of ranch dip.
So about these bowls you see before you, and that tray the pitas are on. Those are from Pacific Merchants Trading Company, which is a family-owned company specializing in making food bloggers freak out with prop happiness. A quick browse through their site and you’ll know what I’m taking about: they have a huge selection of acacia wood pieces like you see above, those ridiculously awesome kilner canning jars and bottles…they have all the things. I’ve been taking to them for a few months about doing a post in their honor: not a sponsored post, because no one pays me to do things (who would, really), but they sent me some pieces and I just can’t stop using them. Both the bowls and the tray I used for this is from Pacific Merchants, and you can find them here. All their acacia is eco-friendly and easy to clean (a plus for someone who hand-washes dishes probably 3 times a day). I’ve already given this set a workout and as you can see, still beautiful.
As some of you know, it was just my birthday. We’re not going to talk about it. Usually birthdays mean a little fun and then I schedule my annual physical exam at the doctor and contemplate how much I still have on my to-do list because I know how to party, and that’s how I roll. This year, thanks to Pacific Merchants, I get to pass along a “birthday present” of sorts to you. Way more fun than a doctor’s visit, right?
They’re letting me give you 20% off your online order. Yay! Not only do they have great stuff, but they’re super nice. From now and for the next few weeks (I’ll find out exact dates; I’m so pro at this), use the code “Periodic20” at checkout to get 20% off your purchase with Pacific Merchants. Get anything you want: this is my birthday gift to you, and you didn’t even have to get any older in the process. Lucky.
Or think of it as a way to jumpstart that holiday shopping, because everyone loves wood platters, and serving utensils, and plates…they go with everything. Also, ridiculously beautiful canning jars and bottles, for the food blogger or hipster in your life. Or yourself, because you know we all tuck a few things into the cart for ourselves during holiday shopping season. Own it.
I’d say adapted, but this dip is cobbled together from a few sources, specifically a Food & Wine Cookbook from the late 1990’s and and this online recipe from a 1993 Gourmet Magazine, found here on Epicurious.
Recipe for homemade pitas forthcoming.
Muhammara [Red Pepper + Walnut Dip] with Accompaniments
- 7 oz jar roasted red peppers, well-drained
- 3/4 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
- 1/3 cup fresh white bread crumbs
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
- juice of 1 lemon, to taste
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flake
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- fresh parsley leaves, rough-chopped, for garnish
- 4 to 6 ounces good-quality feta, cubed, for serving
- 4 to 6 ounces marinated olives, for serving
- 8 pitas, warmed and cut into triangles, for serving
Make the muhammara:
In the bowl of a food processor, add the drained red peppers, walnuts, bread crumbs, pomegranate molasses, and lemon juice; pulse a few times to combine. Add cumin, red pepper flake, and paprika, and pulse to blend. With the motor running, stream in olive oil until everything is evenly distributed. I won’t say “smooth” because your dip should textured, but evenly so. Season with salt and pepper, transfer to airtight container, and allow to chill for at least 1 hour to let the flavors blend.
Put it all together:
Add marinated olives, cubed feta, and muhammara to three serving bowls (may I suggest the ones I used, found here, which make the perfect vessels.) Layer the warmed pitas onto a serving tray; garnish both pitas and muhammara with chopped fresh parsley and maybe a little salt and pepper. Serve immediately.