I don't know how I went so many years without even hearing of muhammara
but when I found it on a vegetable antipasto at my favorite local restaurant,
it was love at first bite.

Muhammara is a Middle Eastern dip but I've used it in sandwiches of grilled eggplant, 
in quesadillas, or mixed in to a little pasta.  It's versatile.  If I were to describe it to
someone who's never had it, I would say it's like a sweet red pepper pesto.  

When time allows, I like to do everything from scratch but I've added a few shortcuts in red
that will allow you to whip this up in a few minutes with things can keep in your pantry.

                    Ingedients                         (Quick-n-Easy alternative in red)              

                    1 cup walnuts, toasted  (toasting optional to save time)                      
                    3 sweet red peppers, roasted (or use one 12-oz. bottle roasted red peppers)        
                    2/3 cup plain bread crumbs (or throw one piece pita bread in food processor)          
                    3 cloves garlic
                    3 T. fresh lemon juice (don't you dare use the fake stuff)
                    1 T. paprika
                    1 tsp. cumin
                    1 tsp red pepper flakes (to taste)
                    1 tsp. salt
                    1/2 tsp black pepper
                    2 T. pomegranate molasses* (2 T. pomegranate juice, optional)
                    3 T. olive oil

                    Extra olive oil, moroccan black olives and spring of mint for garnish

                   * See recipe for pomegranate molasses below

Brush peppers with oil and roast in 400 F. oven.  Roast about 30-35 minutes,
flipping once or twice so they brown evenly.  When tender and collapsed, set aside
to cool.  Remove stems, seeds and skin.

On another baking sheet, toast the walnuts for about 7 minutes.
Watch them closely; they burn quickly!  Set aside to cool.

1 16-oz. bottle of pomegranate juice
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 lemon juice

Heat pomegranate juice to boiling.  Add sugar and stir to dissolve.
Add lemon juice and reduce heat to a simmer.

Simmer until liquid is reduced to about one cup.

Remove from heat and cool.

Extra molasses can be stored in a glass jar in fridge for a few months.

In a food processor, start with the walnuts, bread and dry ingredients to make sure
they're well integrated.  Add the peppers and wet ingredients and puree until smooth.
Use a spatula to push ingredients down a few times
End with the olive oil and add one tablespoon at a time.  You may not need all the liquid
and it's a great place to cut on calories if you want to.

Can be served immediately or stored in refrigerator for a few days.

Garnish with moroccan black olives and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Serve with any kind of bread.  I love toasted pita points because there's
something satisfying about eating something with a little crunch.



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