muhammara [red pepper + walnut dip] with accompaniments.

muhammara [red pepper + walnut dip]

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*

muhammara [red pepper + walnut dip]

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.

muhammara [red pepper + walnut 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.

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  • Reply John@Kitchen Riffs October 22, 2014 at 8:51 am

    Lovely dip! And I thought I recognized it — I really miss Gourmet. I used to have all of their magazines dating back to the late 70s, but our last move I had to steel myself and throw them away. Hated to do it, but they weighed a ton, and now that Gourmet has many (not all) of their recipes online, it’s so much easier to search that way. But I’ve never made this dish, and you’ve reminded me I should! Thanks.

    • Reply shannon October 23, 2014 at 8:56 pm

      Thank you! It’s hard to haul around old magazines: I have many, many piles of old magazines in my basement, and i can’t bring myself to get rid of them. I agree, it’s so much easier to search for a recipe online versus through where you thought you saw it in a back issue, but there’s something fun about the treasure hunt, too. Also, i like seeing the recipes in the context of the magazine it came out of; can’t do that online, sadly.

  • Reply natalie @ wee eats October 22, 2014 at 9:08 am

    Ok, a few things here…

    Muhammara has been popping up EVERYWHERE and I’m DYING to make it. I’m like “IT’S SO EASY I CAN DO IT IN THREE SECONDS” and then I don’t do it ever. Which is why I need to live closer to you. Because YOU DID IT **AND** you even made homemade pita which has been on my “to do” list since … idk…. forever basically. And it looks magical. And I need it. Like, now.

    Second, I clicked on the link to PM stuff like “oh let’s go look at the expensive stuff I can’t buy even with 20% off” and you know what? IT’S ACTUALLY SUPER AFFORDABLE. Ugh. I am going to have to tie my hands together so that I don’t buy all the things.

    Third, HURRY I NEED THE PITA POST. Well, actually I’m leaving town this weekend so you have some time but I SERIOUSLY NEED TO MAKE IT LOOKS SO GOOD. It reminds me of the pita at a restaurant in Columbus. It’s like the best pita in the world and I call it “the golden pita” because, even though it’s free, they always bring the table like two wedges at a time as though it’s made of gold.

    • Reply Kate @ Pacific Merchants October 22, 2014 at 9:49 am

      Hi Natalie,

      I’m SO glad you clicked over to our site! We really focus on carrying beautiful, unique pieces that are both affordable AND last a lifetime. Because, you know. . not everyone can afford a bowl that costs as much as a mortgage payment 😉

      I’m super-looking forward to the pita post too. I LOVE homemade pita and haven’t had the good stuff since I left Chicago and Chicago’s Greektown. Soon!

    • Reply shannon October 23, 2014 at 8:59 pm

      It’s so good: it’s like the dip everyone talks about but forgets to make / doesn’t get around to. and now you can do it too! 🙂 i need to get on writing that pitas post; seriously they’re super fun to make, just for the dramatic inflate. *poooooof*

      it’s totally reasonable, right? AND FABULOUS TO GIVE AS GIFTS. Check out all the wood things and also those kilner things are KILLING me. Not gonna lie, i’m probably going to use my own coupon code. is that tacky? hope not. 🙂

      I’m on the pitas post: you should have it by tomorrow morning, so it’ll be ready for you to make when you get home. If you do them right (which i’m sure you will) they’re a little like the white pitas at CPK. not totally, but almost.

  • Reply Ashley October 22, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    I love muhammara!!!! You’re so right, the ingredients belie the harmonious taste of the end product. And it’s sooooo much better than ranch, but, then again, I don’t actually like ranch (gasp, sorry, more Doritos and dip for you). I definitely need to make this soon, since it’s been far, far too long since I last enjoyed muhammara. I fall into that same old thing rut a lot. Oof.

    And those bowls! The platter! Gorgeous! I used our wedding as an excuse to get some awesome serving pieces and I wish I could add these to our registry…a year later…that’s totally legit, right?

    • Reply shannon October 23, 2014 at 9:04 pm

      so ashley, i totally ate the muhammara a few times with a spoon: that’s okay, right? it’s veggies and nuts, so sort of like a side dish? soooooo much better than ranch dip, i wholeheartedly agree: so much going on in the flavors that it’s way more exciting for vegetables, too. Are we all in a rut right now? I feel like we are: maybe it’s the time of year…the pre-holday season rut.

      yay, right? all the bowls and platters, and way affordable: beats the socks off of the wood things at Crate & Barrel for price, definitely, and it looks identical to my pieces from there. It’s pretty beautiful stuff. I say you add it on, girl! Maybe if you pretend register for whatever you want and then “complete your registry” with my fancy 20% off – that’s exactly how registries should work.

  • Reply Deb|EastofEdenCooking October 22, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    You’ve got us all clicking over to Pacific Merchants looking at all the fabulous items! And yes, I did start my Christmas shopping already. I’d rather finish shopping early so I have time to enjoy my own home, friends and family and dive into a massive amount of holiday baking projects. And this is where the muhammara comes in- fast and flavorful, just we we all need during the holidays!

    • Reply shannon October 23, 2014 at 9:06 pm

      You are a pro, Deb: I think all of us would rather finish shopping early, but it’s very few of us who manage to actually get that accomplished! My hat is off to you, my dear. Shop away!

      I agree: i think we all do need a little muhammara in our lives over the holidays…i know for sure i’ll be making it a few times this season.

  • Reply Jennie @themessybakerblog October 22, 2014 at 6:19 pm

    This post made me realize that I need to expand my snacking arsenal. Yeah, pretzels are good, but they’d be even better with this dip. This winter is going to be the season of better snacking.

    • Reply shannon October 23, 2014 at 9:07 pm

      Jennie, that’s saying something, because i know you make the BEST snacks. Add this to your rotation and you will not be disappointed, i promise. 🙂

  • Reply Kate from Pacific Merchants October 23, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    Thanks for the lovely complements on our dishes, folks. I’m SO glad you’re clicking over to take a look. If you’ve got any questions, let me know! Can I just say, I gave this recipe a try last night and LOVED it? Perfect with celery instead of my usual hummus!

    • Reply shannon October 23, 2014 at 9:10 pm

      Everyone loves the wood things, Kate! I’m not surprised: it’s such beautiful stuff, and it’s not crazy expensive. And i wasn’t kidding: i’ve used those pieces you sent me several times, and they just get better each time i wash them. Thanks so much again for letting me test-drive them!

      So happy you liked the muhammara! Which reminds me, i need to make another batch for a get-together this weekend: it’s becoming a go-to dip for me.

  • Reply Willow @ Will Cook For Friends October 27, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    I have definitely fallen into a snacking rut lately. Nuts and dried fruit for days. How is it that I have never even heard of muhammara, no less tasted it? I think that needs to be remedied. Immediately. Also, those wooden bowls and serving tray are gorgeous! Heading over to the Pacific Merchants to check out all their loot now!

    • Reply Willow @ Will Cook For Friends October 27, 2014 at 12:12 pm

      Oh, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY lady! *hugs*

      • Reply shannon October 31, 2014 at 5:53 am

        Thanks, Willow! It was an uneventful birthday, which i enjoy. I think the universe placed my birthday in october because a) i love fall so much and b) because so much else happens in october that i don’t really have to focus on my birthday lol. 🙂
        You should try this dip: so i made it weeks ago for this post and i can’t stop thinking about how much i keep wanting it, which means more dip will be made soon. And it’s a fun one to take to parties, b/c people will instantly be like “WTH is that?” and then taste it and be all “YEAH!”

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