Imagine a place where wintertime’s beauty and bite are keen. Imagine a high-ceilinged dining room with guests already seated around a table laid with a heavy linen cloth, crystal and silver. Tall French doors at one end of the room give onto a garden blanketed in drifts of snow. The wind whistles and rattles the panes but heavy curtains block its passage into the room. A ray of afternoon sun slants down through a break in the drapery and forms a pool of light on the dark,wood floor. The room is chill, but the party is merry. Wine and good food warm the blood, good conversation and friendship the heart.
This scene is meant to evoke the mood of the new menu: A Cold Winter’s Day Luncheon Menu Reminiscent of Sunny Climes. The courses in it are all intended to be suggestive of warmth and…sunshine. The lunch begins with Muhammarah, a dish of Middle Eastern origin.
Note: To print this recipe, or any other diplomatickitchen recipe, go to the bottom of the page, at the end of the post, and click on the icon: Print & PDF. You will have the option of printing in smaller text size and without photos.
A Timing Note: Muhammarah may be made several days in advance. It stores well, refrigerated, in glass jars. Bring it to room temperature before serving.
- 2 large Red Bell Peppers
- 1/3 cup of fine Breadcrumbs from a loaf that is not too fresh and one that has body, such as a Country Loaf, Ciabatta, or a French Baguette
- 1 Tablespoon of Cumin
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of Red Pepper Flakes: The Red Pepper Flakes used in the photographed version were on the mild side. If yours are stronger, adjust this amount according to your liking for ‘hot’.
- 1 Tablespoon of fresh Lemon Juice
- 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons of Pomegranate Syrup
- 3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
- 1/2 Tablespoon of Tahini
- 1/4 cup of Walnuts, coarsely ground, plus some additional chopped or whole Walnut halves as a garnish
- Salt to taste
- a Suggested Optional Decoration: Lemon Zest cut into thin threads to sprinkle on top of the Muhammarah, or chopped or whole Walnut halves and Leaves of Romaine on which to serve it
- a Baking Sheet
- a medium-sized Bowl and a small Bowl
- a Chopping Board and Knife
- a Food Processor or Blender
1. Put the red peppers on the baking sheet. Adjust the top oven rack so that it is quite close to the oven’s top grilling flame. Turn on the oven grill to high (if it is an adjustable one). Place the red peppers under the flame, quite close to it, and grill them for 15 – 20 minutes on each side. The skin will be charred black and the flesh soft.
2. Transfer the grilled peppers to a bowl. When they are cool enough to handle, transfer them one at a time to the chopping board and remove their stalks, stems and peel. Pour the juices that have collected in the bottom of the bowl into a small bowl and set them aside.
3. Put the peppers in the food processor or blender, and process them, using the ‘Pulse’ setting, until they become a coarsely textured purée.
4. Put the puréed peppers back in the medium-sized bowl. Add the bread crumbs, cumin, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, pomegranate syrup, olive oil, tahini and coarsely ground walnuts, and stir everything together. If the mixture is too thick, thin it with some of the reserved juice from the roasted peppers.
5. Taste the Muhammarah and add salt to your liking.
6. A suggestion for serving: Arrange the spread on a plate lined with leaves of romaine lettuce and sprinkle the spread with finely cut threads of lemon zest. Chopped walnuts or whole walnut halves are another nice way to finish this dish.
A Note: Muhammarah is an hors d’oeuvre for the Lunch Menu: A Cold Winter’s Day Luncheon Menu Reminiscent of Sunny Climes.
Other Serving Suggestions: Muhammarah will travel well to a picnic and is also a good accompaniment to grilled meat.
An Invitation: You are invited to request suggestions from the diplomatickitchen for your own menus for any occasion by clicking on the feature ‘Ask and Tell’ here or in the Menu at the top of the page. Do you have a menu concept with a gap or two that wants filling…or perhaps you are an expat looking for ways to adapt your recipes to what is available in your temporary home…maybe you are just looking for a new way to use a familiar ingredient or would like suggestions on how to adjust quantities of a recipe from the diplomatickitchen for smaller or larger groups…Replies will be published in ‘Ask and Tell’ or sent by email if you prefer.
© Elizabeth Laeuchli, the diplomatickitchen, 2011-2012