Monday, September 30, 2013

Roasted Red Bell Pepper Dip - "Muhammara"

The other day while I was out shopping, a pepper fairy (I'm quite sure it was my friend Susie) came to my house and left a bag of beautiful bell peppers that had just been picked from the garden.  Just look at how fresh and gorgeous they are!  Needless to say, I was very happy!

I decided to make a Middle Eastern roasted red pepper dip called Muhammara -- a lovely vegan dip featuring red peppers and walnuts -- the perfect accompaniment for crudités and something that I had been wanting to make since embarking on the VB6 plan.

I started by roasting 5 red bell peppers and a quarter of a head of garlic.  First I rinsed and placed the whole peppers on a sheet pan and wrapped the garlic head, rubbed with olive oil, in some aluminum foil and dropped that on the sheet pan as well.  I roasted everything in a 500 degree oven for 30 minutes, turning the peppers every 10 minutes.

When the peppers and garlic were done roasting, I took the pan out of the oven, covered it with a large sheet of foil, and let everything cool down and sweat.  Once cool enough to handle, I removed the skin from the peppers (it practically fell off), and squeezed the softened garlic right out of its protective covering.

Next, I placed the peppers and garlic into the food processor, along with 3/4 cup of lightly toasted walnuts (just a quick toast in a hot, dry frying pan for a few minutes), 1/4 cup of good olive oil, 1/4 cup of unseasoned breadcrumbs, 1/2 teaspoon of cumin, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of good red pepper, and some coarse black pepper to taste.  Finally, I added about 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice to the mixture, and I pulsed all the ingredients together until the texture was smooth.

A wonderful dip for crudités, Muhammara is of course also perfect for dipping in pita triangles, and it is just delicious spread onto slices of fresh, crunchy bread.  In this version, the roasted garlic infuses the dip with a warm, subtle garlic flavor; however, if you prefer the strong presence of garlic, you can add 2-3 cloves of fresh crushed garlic in lieu of the roasted garlic.  Also, feel free to use jarred red peppers -- particularly in warm weather when you don't want to crank your oven up to 500 degrees, as they work quite well in this preparation.

As you can see, Muhammara is super easy to prepare.  Plus, it keeps well in the refrigerator, and like hummus, it is a healthy and delicious alternative to cheese and dairy-based dips and spreads.  Enjoy!

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