Thursday, May 13, 2010


After postponing this day for months, I approached it with both eagerness and apprehension.  My hopes and expectations were so high that I worried about the real thing living up to them.

I'm talking about mouhammara, a spicy and savory Middle Eastern dip/spread that I've only had (though multiple times!) at Marouch, the amazing Lebanese/Armenian restaurant down the street from me.  It's made out of walnuts, peppers, garlic, and spices, and it tastes like one of the best things I can imagine: nutty and spicy, but also slightly creamy and sour.

A vast google search suggests that the ingredients are pretty standard (though some include tomato paste); what varies is the proportions.  I ultimately chose the recipe below because it was the cheapest and healthiest of the bunch (with regard to the ratios between oil and walnuts, and bread crumbs).  Not surprisingly, I think it needs more nuts and less bread crumbs.  Bread crumbs do help bulk out the dish and add a creaminess that might be lacking if you were going gluten-free.  Anyway, more walnuts, less bread, and perhaps adding a bit of tomato paste might also help.  No more oil, though!  In fact, the recipe called for 3/4 c olive oil, and 1/2 c was plenty.  Also, I used 3 large cloves of garlic, and if you're not in the mood for intense (though delicious) garlickiness, you might use 1 or 2.  Also, you could roast your own red bell peppers in the oven and use them instead of the kind from a jar.  Update 6/17: I used equal parts (1/2 c each) walnuts and bread crumbs, and almost NO oil, and it turned out even better.

Despite all these notes, this recipe was unbelievably delicious.  I ate it on a fresh whole wheat pita (despite the fact that the bread-on-bread thing seems not quite kosher), with some greens and vegetables.  And, I think that this is like what Hot Pockets might be like if God ate them (in how many different ways is this sentence offensive?)--rich, savory, creamy, slightly spicy, yet perfectly simple and healthy!  I actually find it easier to "eat healthy" when I eat rich foods, especially avocados, nuts, and olive oil (though I know everyone's constitution is different)--if you feel satisfied, you are happy to stop eating, and you don't snack on random starchy sugary things throughout the day.

There is one slightly-more-complicated ingredient in this recipe, and that is pomegranate molasses.  The (simple!) recipe is at the bottom of this post.  And if anyone has any ideas for what else to do with pomegranate molasses, please let me know!  So far it seems that it goes in mouhammara and some Middle Eastern eggplant dishes.  And, I found one adventurous recipe for pomegranate molasses cupcakes.  Thoughts?

Update 5/27: some new-found uses for pomegranate molasses: Pomegranate Baked Beans and Tangy Sweet Potato Curry.

Update, 10/31/11: When I started using commercial pomegranate molasses, I realized I needed a lot less of it than the waterier version I'd made at home.  Try using 1 tsp instead of 2.

(adapted from

a 7-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained
2/3 cup fine fresh bread crumbs
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted lightly and chopped fine
2 to 4 garlic cloves, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon salt
1.5-2 TB fresh lemon juice, or to taste
1-2 tsp pomegranate molasses (recipe below)
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried hot red pepper flakes
1/2 cup (or slightly more) extra-virgin olive oil
toasted pita triangles as an accompaniment

In a food processor blend together everything except the olive oil until the mixture is smooth.  Then, with the motor running add the oil gradually. Transfer the muhammara to a bowl and serve it at room temperature with the pita triangles.


Pomegranate molasses is a key ingredient in mouhammara.  I know this photo would look much nicer with sunlight going through it; I may try to retake it in the day time.

Pomegranate Molasses

4 cups pomegranate juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice

In a large, uncovered saucepan, heat pomegranate juice, sugar, and lemon juice on medium high until the sugar has dissolved and the juice simmers. Reduce heat just enough to maintain a simmer. Simmer for about an hour, or until the juice has a syrupy consistency, and has reduced to 1 to 1 1/4 cups. Pour out into a jar. Let cool. Store chilled in the refrigerator.


clare raccuglia said...

Mmm looks amazing! And, I do actually have another use for pomegranate molasses! For thanksgiving I marinated tempeh in a mixture of that and a little balsamic vinegar reduction, then grilled it. I don't remember the exact proportions, I think I was playing around a bit. It was good though!

Julia said...

A marinade! Of course!--it's got a sort of BBQy thing going on. Thanks! I'll have to try that. And I wonder if you could use it in baklava--the recipe I recently used calls for a lemony sugar syrup at the end; this seems equivalent.