I remember the first time I served this spread at an event. Several people reacted the same way: "It's like an Arab romesco sauce!" I wonder if the Catalonians intersected with Arabs during the time when they conquered Spain to inspire this tomato, walnut and pepper sauce, but in the end, it doesn't matter. All great things travel, and muhammara is a great thing.
The Arabic word muhammara translates literally to "something that is red," so the trick to this dish is to choose peppers with the deepest ripe-red hue possible to create the perfect sweet pepper spread. The secret ingredient is a backdrop of sweet and tart pomegranate molasses to brighten all the other flavors. Snack on this with fresh flat- bread or toss it into your pasta. There is no wrong way to eat muhammara.
- 4 large red bell peppers (about 1½ pounds) or one 15-ounce can roasted red peppers, drained and rinsed
- 1⅓ cups walnuts, plus 2 tablespoons, chopped for garnish
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
- 1½ teaspoons Aleppo pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds, for garnish (optional)
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper.2.
If you are using fresh bell peppers, place them on the prepared tray. Roast the peppers until the skins are charred, about 30 minutes, turning them over once or twice. Transfer to a resealable bag or a bowl covered with plastic wrap and set aside. Once cool, tear the peppers open and remove the stems, seeds and skins.3.
Combine the walnuts and breadcrumbs in a food processor and process to a cornmeal-like texture. Add the roasted peppers, garlic, molasses, lemon juice, Aleppo pepper, salt and cumin. Pulse until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.4.
With the processor running, slowly add the oil and blend until the oil is completely incorporated. Adjust the salt to taste.5.
When ready to serve, scoop the pepper mixture, chilled or at room temperature, onto a serving plate. With the back of a spoon, create little divots for the oil to fall into. Drizzle with the oil and garnish with the chopped walnuts, pomegranate seeds and parsley.6.
The spread can be stored, ungarnished, in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.