July 2009 archive
A couples of years ago on the Fourth of July, I made tons of Middle Eastern food for our celebration – hummus, tandoori chicken, pita bread, baba ghanoush and muhammara. July 4th always consists of some kind of grilling, some kind of boozy beverage and watching the fireworks in downtown Knox Vegas from our upper porch, usually with a group of friends. Whenever I know that my best friend, Dani is going to be eating with us, I make a conscious effort to tone down the hotness. I love the girl but when it comes to spicy foods, she's a wimp. Everything we ate that night had been toned down, except for the Muhammara. And wouldn't you know – that was her favorite thing!
She's asked me several times for the recipe but not only did I not copy the recipe down, I forgot what cookbook it came from. I did a search for the recipe online but all of the muhammara recipes I could find icluded roasted red peppers as an ingredient. I love them but when they're out of season, they're expensive. I looked and looked and could never find the right recipe so I gave it up for lost.
I need to explain how important Dani is to me. This is my fellow crazy cat lady. This is the wonderful lady that kept me sane last year in the months counting down to our wedding. She went wedding dress shopping with me. She planned a bridal shower. She planned a crazy night out at a drag queen show for my bachelorette party. She kept me from killing my mom. And seriously, how could you not love a girl that gives you a bottle of Big Black Dick rum and doesn't make you wear penises out in public to celebrate your upcoming nuptials?
Dani had a birthday last week. So…needless to say, I wanted to make muhammara for her. And I wanted to make the recipe that I made that July Fourth that she loved. So I headed down to the library, praying that they'd have the book in stock and that I'd still recognize the cover. I knew it was blue and written by a woman. That's it. I headed back into the stacks, found the section where most of the books on Middle Eastern food were shelved and started looking. About twenty minutes into my search, I hit the jackpot. It's in a wonderful book called The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden. I'm really excited to have found it again.
Muhammara is wonderful with pita chips – especially if you're serving hummus. It contrasts nicely with the smooth, sedate creaminess of the hummus. It's quick to make and leftovers are great on sandwiches.
Love this girl!
Adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
Here are the ingredients you'll need to make this dish
1 1/4 cups shelled walnuts
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 slices whole wheat bread, lightly toasted (the recipe calls for one slice but my bread is smaller than usual)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes (I like to use Aleppo pepper from Penzeys)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons sugar (I like to use brown sugar, lightly packed)
Salt to taste
Toast the walnuts in a pan over medium heat for around five minutes. Make sure to stir them. Taste them and take them off the stove and place in a bowl to cool when they taste good to you. I usually put extra in the pan for "tasting purposes". Watch them carefully so they don't burn.
While the walnuts are toasting, cut the crusts off your bread, cut into large pieces and add to food processor. You can use a blender but just make sure not to get it blended too well. You want a rough paste.
Add two tablespoons of tomato paste to your food processor/blender:
Add a half cup of olive oil to the food processor:
Add 2 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses to the food processor:
Keep your cat who thinks she's being sneaky away from the bread crusts. Because that's their natural food in the wild or something like that.
Add the red pepper flakes (if you're less wimpy than Dani!), the cumin and brown sugar. Then add your walnuts (I usually let them cool down for a minute or two).
Blend to a rough paste:
If the mixture seems a little oily, add in another piece of bread and re-blend. Now eat! This goes especially well with copious amounts of Rhubarbaritas (recipe coming soon). Just be sure to drink lots of water and take some advil before going to bed!
Click here to see a printable copy of the recipe
I don't think we've had a meal this week that hasn't included some kind of local produce. When the bulk of your grocery bill is spent at the farmer's market, it's difficult to get too esoteric with your cooking. Sure, I made muhammara that included pomegranate molasses. But that same dish contained leftover bread from a local baker, roasted peppers from my garden and tomato paste canned last year. However, I think my favorite meals this week have been the two or three where the majority of the ingredients traveled less than 50 feet.
Salt boiled new potatoes dressed with a little butter made from Cruze farm milk. Nothing tastes better than the sweet mealiness of new potatoes that 20 minutes earlier were lurking in the dirt of your garden bed. Sliced Burgundy Traveler tomatoes dressed with a little red wine vinegar and olive oil glisten on the plate. And I've recently discovered a new passion – roasted green beans. I type that with some trepidation because I don't want anyone to think that I'm a freaky health nut that would turn down peach cobbler to nibble on some kale. However, I think I could eat my weight in roasted green beans. The olive oil caramelizes them and turns them into a crispy snack food with the slightest hint of vegetable flavor. I would eat these as a snack, at 2am in the morning when I was drunk and have lost whatever compunction I might have about gorging on high calorie snack chips. That's how much I like them. Peach Brown Butter Bars have become a favorite new discovery and I've made them several times. But my favorite meals are simple meals like we had last night. Eating local is a wonderful thing. Eating out of your back yard? Even better.
Love his films!
Adapted from Eating Well
3/4 cup hoisin sauce3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed, each cut into 3 crosswise strips
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