Recipe Corner: Muhammara (Red Pepper and Walnut Dip) From Memories of Aleppo

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“Aleppo, Syria can boast one of the richest, most diverse cuisines in the world. Syrian cuisine mainly uses eggplant, zucchini, garlic, meat (mostly from lamb and sheep), sesame seeds, rice, chickpeas, fava beans, lentils, cabbage, cauliflower, vine leaves, pickled turnips, cucumbers, tomatoes, olive oil, lemon juice, mint, pistachios, honey and fruits. Despite its wide acclaim, only a handful of Aleppo dishes are ever served at Middle Eastern restaurants today, including in Los Angeles,” says retired engineer and author, Alec Ekmekji. “It remains a cuisine of many great home cooks and chefs.”

A few years ago, Aleppo natives Seta Ekmekji (Alec’s mother), and her sister-in-law, Rhoda Margossian, compiled some family recipes to leave to their children, a project that developed into a life of its own, and turned into an impressive ethnic cookbook. Seta and Rhoda worked together to document each recipe, and their cookbook, Memories of Aleppo, was published in 2016. Memories of Aleppo is a treasured collection of the family’s favorite Aleppo recipes that can be enjoyed for many generations.

“These recipes represent the cooking style and cuisine of the Armenians who lived in Aleppo for centuries,” adds Rhoda. “Many recipes are vegetarian and vegan, including this Muhammara. Aleppo pepper is an important ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine. It is a Syrian variety of hot pepper, characterized by its fruity, cumin-like flavor with moderate heat that builds over time. It is used as a spice in numerous dishes in order to provide them with some heat.” Each of the recipes was beautifully photographed by their son/nephew, Raffi Alexander at Spiderbox Photography, in La Canada, California.

“We were schoolmates in the American High School for Girls in Aleppo,” says Seta. “Later on, one of us married the other’s brother and we became relatives as well as very close friends, and we are still close, and continue to talk with each other on the telephone every day.”

“This recipe,” adds Rhoda, “is a delicacy of contrasting flavors: olive oil, red pepper, pomegranate molasses, and walnuts. Its magical qualities lie in the fact that when you eat it, you taste all of the wonderful flavors simultaneously. Although Muhammara is usually eaten as a dip, it goes well with turkey, especially left-over turkey. Muhammara and turkey between two slices of toasted bread makes the perfect sandwich.”

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Ingredients:

6 medium red bell peppers, coarsely chopped and seeded

1/2 cup corn flake crumbs

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1/2 teaspoon salt to taste

2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper to taste

Topics: Vegan foods

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons pomegranate syrup

1 tablespoon red pepper paste (optional, found in Middle Eastern stores)*

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup walnuts, chopped (pulse 10 times in the food processor)

Pine nuts to garnish

 

Preparation:

In a food processor, add the chopped bell peppers and process until smooth. Put them in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook uncovered for about 10 minutes. (Six bell peppers will make 1 cup of pepper sauce). Remove from stove top and cool.

Mix red pepper sauce with the corn flake crumbs (do not use bread crumbs). Add the cumin powder, salt, Aleppo red pepper, granulated sugar, lemon juice, pomegranate syrup, and the optional red pepper paste. Mix well. Then add the olive oil and chopped walnuts. Sauce will taste sweet, hot and sour. If it is too thick, add some water gradually until it has the consistency of a dip. Serve on a plate or in a bowl garnished with pine nuts.

*”You can also purchase red pepper from Korean markets and at Amazon,” adds Rhoda. “Labeled ‘Premium Korean Red Pepper Coarse Powder,’ it is coarse ground, less expensive, and has a nice aroma of dried peppers.”

Memories of Aleppo, Our Favorite Middle Eastern Recipes by Seta Ekmekji and Rhoda Margossian.

 

ORDER TODAY: https://www.amazon.com/Memories-Aleppo-Seta-Ekmekji/dp/1693380234/ref=mp_s_a_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=memories+of+aleppo&qid=1594745783&sr=8-2

 

Watch: Memories of Aleppo’s Kibbeh Nayeh video at: https://vimeo.com/186129394

 

See:

https://www.facebook.com/memoriesofaleppocookbook/

https://www.morfali.com/what-is-aleppo-cuisine/#:~:text=The%20cuisine%20of%20Aleppo%20is,famous%20among%20other%20Levantine%20cuisines.

https://www.amazon.com/Korean-Pepper-Coarse-Powder-Pounds/dp/B005OJUSZE

 

 

 

 

 

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