Last week on Thursday all of us here in Southern California were forced to break our bond with electronic gadgets and spend some quality time, well that's putting it lightly. Around 3:30 in the afternoon we lost power, I had left work just before the power was off and wasn't aware of it until I got off the interstate and found all the traffic lights out of service. Getting past busy intersections was tricky, I have to give credit to the majority of drivers on the road for being fair and calm but its those few weird, impatient ones that created a whole lot of mess on the road. Not willing to wait their turn they would zip through the intersection leaving others confused and irate. I was just glad that I left early before all the major trouble started. As the evening rush hour approached the traffic situation just got worse.
The reason I left work early was to keep my appointment with the dentist. Boy, am I glad the power went off before he started work on my teeth, I don't want to imagine what would have happened otherwise! I get to the dentist, open the door to the waiting room and to my utter surprise I see the doctor and the nurses sitting around enjoying ice-creams...ice-creams...at the dentists! ha! That's when I realized it was a major power shutdown and I happily accepted to have my appointment rescheduled and walked away with a chocolate-vanilla ice cream in hand. I wish every trip to the dentist is just as good, hehe :)
Once I got home I picked up a book, sat outside and happily spent the evening reading without any distractions. When it got dark outside I finally got to bring out all the little tea-light candles that I had collected over the last few years and it felt like Diwali for a while. I could hear everyone around us having fun and taking advantage of the shutdown. People got out and barbecued, our weekly farmers market stalls were serving food way past closing time until they had nothing left to sell. I could hear a few guitars strumming and friends sitting together having fun. If not for the emergency/service sectors also losing power and the traffic situation, everyone else had a good time. Taking a break from electronics and spending quality time is something we should be doing everyday, not because we are forced by a major power failure. On the flip side of all the fun you realize how crippled we become without electricity here. When in India, power cuts were a norm and life moved on smoothly for the most part without it. We could still cook, get other chores done, schools continued as usual, grocery stores did not face as much of a problem and people did not panic. In fact as a kid we welcomed the daily power cuts so we could escape from our books and go out to play.
Since I could not cook dinner that night and did not dare open the refrigerator door too long, I reached in and grabbed all the ingredients I needed for a sandwich in one quick raid. V bought bread and orange juice on his way home and we were well on our way to a good meal. This dip that I'm sharing with you today saved our dinner for us. I've been experimenting with sandwich options lately and had crisp cucumbers, roasted red pepper, delicious heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil on hand. I slathered bread slices with Muhammara, topped it with tomatoes, cucumber, carrots, roasted red peppers and basil. With a crackle of salt and pepper our gourmet no-cook dinner was ready in minutes.
Muhammara (Moo-HAHM-mer-ah) is a middle eastern dip made from roasted red peppers, walnuts, bread and pomegranate molasses. Its earthy, tart, spicy, nutty and slightly sweet all at once and anything that's topped with it turns instantly delicious. This dip is said to have originated from Aleppo, Syria and spread out to Lebanon and rest of Middle-east soon. Traditionally it includes Aleppo peppers that are moderately spicy and have a slight smoky, fruity flavor to them. Its a little tough to find them but a Middle-eastern store or a well stocked spice store should have some. I love sprinkling it on hummus, grilled vegetables and cous cous salads. Just like hummus, Muhammara can be used as a dip for pita chips or regular chips, vegetables, topped on grilled vegetables, kebabs and in this case as a delightful spread for sandwiches too.
A key ingredient in Muhammara is Pomegranate Molasses. The name sounds intriguing and exotic but simply put its nothing but pomegranate juice reduced to a thick, finger licking consistency along with some sugar. Food Network fans will remember Aarti Sequira making a batch of pom molasses for a challenge and getting rave reviews for it by the judges. I'm guessing they din't know how simple it is to make it. Pure Pomegranate juice is not a pleasant drink to have and needs help tempering its flavor. This molasses on the other hand is addictively tart and sweet, almost candy-like with a deep reddish purple color. Once you take a
Muhammara - Roasted Red Pepper & Walnut DipYield - 2 cupsPrep time-20minsCook time - N/AIngredients:
- 3 - Roasted Red bell peppers
- 1/3 cup - Walnuts, gently toasted
- 1 - garlic clove, crushed
- 4-5 chunks of fresh bread
- 1.5 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 1 tsp - Tomato paste (optional)
- 1 Tbsp - lemon juice/lemon vinegar
- 1 tsp - Aleppo pepper or Crushed Red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp - Cumin powder (toasted and ground cumin seeds)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Bring together all the ingredients except the oil in a food processor or blender jar and process until combined. Gradually stream in olive oil until you get a creamy, smooth consistency. Taste test for balance of flavors adjusting proportions to suit your tastes.Notes: You can use store bought or home made roasted red peppers here. Roasting red peppers is quick and easy on a gas burning stove, if not coat them lightly with oil and broil in the oven for 8-10mins.
- Take great care while roasting the walnuts always using medium low heat and tossing them frequently until you can smell them and they are lightly browned.
- You can also add a few chunks of onions to this dip and increase the amount of garlic. I'm not a fan of either in their raw form and so avoid using much.
- A few more recipes for dips - Cannellini Bean Hummus & Tomatillo Salsa Verde
With football season in full swing this is the perfect dip to get into circulation at your next game day spread. We enjoyed this with chips, spread it on sandwiches and the next day I topped it with some heirloom tomato & basil salad on bread and it tasted great every single time. With so many complex flavors brought together harmoniously in one dip every bite remains just as interesting as the last. I added extra pom molasses in mine because I was in love with the tart sweet flavor. The molasses is a perfect counter balance to the earthiness of walnuts and bread and elevates the flavor of all the other ingredients. When you try it at home make it your own by adjusting the different elements in the dip.
I added a brand new page for a Glossary of Indian ingredients mentioning English/Telugu/Tamil/Hindi names where possible. Do take a look and share your suggestions! A link to the page is now included in the Tabs right below the header