Updated: Apr 22, 2021
This week in the CHOP kitchen we are exploring some of the foods of Syria for our Family Meals. It is certainly a rich culture full of amazing foods and flavors! From the spices, to the sauces, to all of the amazing fresh produce, it provides a seemingly endless wealth of recipes to explore. I’m particularly fascinated by the way Syrian cuisine approaches vegetables. I am by no means a vegetarian, my first restaurant job two decades ago was in a barbecue restaurant and I worked in New York City restaurants and specialized in whole animal butchery. However, I find in Syrian cuisine and even more widely in Levantine (the area encompassing Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan), I am fully satisfied with meatless meals because of how they approach their vegetable dishes. The flavors are full, fascinating, rich, and vibrant all at the same time. At times it can make writing menus about other geographic locations difficult because I find myself falling back to recipes from this cuisine! Unfortunately, one Syrian recipe I love to use didn’t quite make it into our Family Meals this week so I wanted to share it with you to make at home! We actually make it every week in our kitchen as we use it as a dipping sauce on our Garden Breakfast plate for the Saturday Brunch Café. The recipe is for Muhammara, which is a delicious roasted red pepper sauce. It's super versatile and pairs perfectly with a wide variety of items from meat to fish to vegetables and even eggs! It's kind of similar to a romesco sauce and many recipes even include toasted bread. Our version replaces the toasted bread with toasted walnuts for a nuttier flavor (and to keep it gluten free!). The two secrets that make this sauce particularly flavorful are the roasting of the peppers over a direct flame and the inclusion of pomegranate molasses which gives it a unique sweet/tart flavor. So, give this sauce a try - you won’t be disappointed and it will satisfy both the vegetable and meat lovers in your household!
Muhammara Makes About 2 Cups 1 Cup Walnuts 3 Red Bell Peppers 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1 Tablespoon Chili Powder 1 Tablespoon Tahini 1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice 2 Tablespoons Pomegranate Molasses 2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste Salt Instructions
In a dry saute pan or in a hot oven - toast the walnuts until golden brown. Set aside to cool
Using a long pair of tongs, place the bell peppers over a hot flame on the stove and char until blackened on all sides. Place peppers in a mixing bowl and cover to steam the skin loose
When cool enough to handle, remove the skin from the charred peppers and set aside
Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend to the desired consistency
Season to taste with salt!