Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Spread (Mouhamarah)

This Middle Eastern appetizer is mighty close to beating out hummus as a favorite of ours. Every Middle Eastern cook has his or her own version–here is ours. What do you think?

mouhamarah3 large red bell peppers
2 hot chile peppers (red)
1 cup walnuts
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt (sea or kosher)
Olive oil, walnut halves, and fresh mint for garnish
Pita bread or lavash

Equipment:  Natural Gas oven and cooktop

Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast in a 350-degree Natural Gas oven for 8 to 10 minutes until lightly toasted. Check frequently to keep from over-toasting. Remove from oven and set aside.

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the peppers on a baking sheet and roast for 30 to 40 minutes or until the peppers are charred and collapsed. Remove to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 5 minutes. Place peppers on a working surface, peel off the skin, and remove the seeds.

While the peppers are roasting, chop the onion and sauté it in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until soft and translucent.

Place the peeled garlic cloves and the pepper flesh into a food processor and pulse to a medium chop. Add the walnuts and sautéed onions and pulse to a fine chop. Add the pomegranate molasses, lemon juice (to taste), and salt (to taste) and pulse until well mixed. A tart jelly (red currant) may be substituted for the molasses.

Spoon the mouhamarah into a pretty serving plate and smooth the top. Drizzle a little olive oil over it and garnish with walnut halves and a sprig of mint. Serve warm or at room temperature with lightly toasted pita triangles or pieces of warmed lavash bread.



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