Roasted Red Pepper, Walnut & Feta Dip

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Mike and I had some friends over for dinner the other night, and our conversation about what to make went roughly the way that it always does:

Tina:  “Hey, what do you think that should I make for them?”
Mike:  “I dunno.  Whatever.  It’s all good.”
Tina:  “Well, I could make Mexican.  I know that they like Mexican, but then again we’ve made Mexican before when they’ve come over so I feel like maybe I should make something else but I’m really not sure…”
Mike:  “Mexican would be fine.”
Tina:  “But then again, I haven’t made Thai food in a while, and I know that they like Thai and we have that giant bottle of fish sauce to use up.”
Mike:  “Okay, so make Thai.”
Tina:  “I could make Indian, I suppose.  Or just something basic like a roast, you like a roast, right?  Or pork tenderloin, it’s on sale right now.  I don’t know, what do YOU want? I don’t know!
Mike:  “That sounds good.”

With such stellar feedback, combined with my chronic waffling, I headed to my good ol’ standby:  Lebanese.  I knew that they liked Lebanese food almost as much as I did, so it was a safe bet.  

I will openly admit that I don’t generally like roasted red peppers.  If I had to try to put my finger one what it is that bothers me so much about them, I would have to say the texture.  And the flavor. And the smell.  So, basically, everything.  However, when they get pureed into a dip with other ingredients that I do like?  I’m not so fussy.  My friend who was coming over is of Bosnian origin, and they often have Ajvar in the house, or a spread made from Ajvar and feta.  This dip is similar to theirs, melded with one of my favorite Middle Eastern dips:  Muhammara .

Muhammara  (also spelled Mouhammara, Muhamarra, or Acuka to the Turks) is a dip made from roasted red peppers, and often uses bread crumbs and/or walnuts to give it body and texture. Pomegranate molasses may be added to give it a bit of sweet’n’sour bite, and cumin is the most commonly used spice.  It can then be eaten as a dip for bread and vegetables, or as a condiment served alongside kebab or grilled meats.  Or with a spoon.  There’s that option as well, which I explored rigorously in the interest of science.  

The best pepper to use for Muhammara is the Aleppo pepper, named after the town of Aleppo in Syria.  They are slightly sweet, mildly hot, and have almost an exotic spiciness to the flavor.  If you can’t find roasted Aleppo peppers (which is quite possible – I went to a Middle Eastern grocer and still couldn’t find them) you can use roasted Spanish Pimenton, or even your favorite high quality regular ol’ jar of roasted reds.  Because the type of pepper used to make Muhammara varies regionally, as does the cook’s personal tastes, the dip can be anywhere from smoky-sweet to eyebrow-sizzling hot – really, it’s however you like it.  

 Muhammara bi Jibneh just means Muhammara with cheese.  Nothing to be alarmed of there!  And indeed, after eating Muhammara bi Jibneh, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to return to the soft bread-crumby dip that I previously loved.  There’s just something so intrinsically addictive about this dip….oh, that rascally salty, smoky, sweet-hot taste!  Peppers and feta and spices – oh my!  Then the walnuts, those little tricksters, come out just enough to make your guests ask, “yes, but what else  is in there?”  

You hopefully know by now that I don’t lie to you (although I might talk dirty behind your back), and I can say with full confidence that this ranks right up there as one of the best dips I have ever made.  Ever.  From the mouth of a Girl Guide who’s NOT trying to sell cookies.  So don’t be frightened by the name, or by the walnuts…or the pomegranate molasses….just give it a shot, you might be surprised.

Muhammara bi Jibneh:  Roasted Red Pepper, Walnut & Feta Dip

Makes 2 1/2 cups 

  • 3 whole large roasted red peppers (about 1 – 1.25 cups chopped roughly) *
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1.5 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnut pieces
  • 200 g feta (about 1 1/4 cups when crumbled) **
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 * If you can find Aleppo peppers they would be ideal, and you would want to use 4-5 because of the smaller size.  

** There are very few ingredients in this dip, so quality really matters.  That doesn’t mean that you need to break the budget buying fancy-shmancy artisanal goats milk feta made by a monastic farmer in northern Greece, but you’d be wise to steer clear of the vacuum sealed Ziggy’s discount feta that holds court beside the Velveeta and Cheez Strings.

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Roughly chop the roasted red peppers and garlic.  Place them in a food processor with the cumin, red pepper flakes, olive oil and pomegranate molasses.

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Whiz the peppers until they’ve formed a smooth saucey paste and you don’t see any big chunks of garlic.  Crumble in the feta, add the chopped walnuts, and pulse the mixture until it’s combined but still slightly chunky.  Be sure not to over-process or you’ll miss out on the texture and taste variations which make this dip so lovely.

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You can garnish the dip with some chopped walnuts, a sprig of parsley, fresh mint, or whatever you fancy.

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Make sure that you have plenty of pita bread or cruddite to scoop up all the goodness, and you’re off to the races.

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One bit of friendly advice, however.  I’ve said it before, but this dip is highly addictive.  I mean it.  You’ve been warned.  I would go as far as to call it ‘the dip which eats like a meal’, not because it’s so hearty and filling, but just because you might eat so much of it that dinner will be naught but a fleeting fancy….which I can say with the voice of someone who knows.  Sah’tang!

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  • http://swirlandscramble.blogspot.com MariannaF

    wow, ive never tried this feta variation before…and ive almost lived off muhammara!!
    this will be interesting to try out in the kitchen..im sure its delicious!

  • http://foodhappens.blogspot.com lo!

    I’ve got to say, I think Peef and I have had the same conversation at our house when company is night. 🙂 Always great to have help when making big decisions like what to make for dinner!!

    This does look like a great variation on a dip I thought I was familiar with! Nice one, Tina…

  • http://www.noblepig.com/ noble pig

    Very nice treat…I love roasted red peppers!

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

    1. For the record, my voice is that of the second man in a monologue.

    Tina: …what should I make, Lebanese?
    Mike: I like Lebanse, do Lebanese.
    Tina: Or I could do Thai! Ohhhh, I haven’t had shrimp in a while, and that would be so tasty…
    Mike: Why not Lebanese? I thought you were doing Lebanese.
    Tina: And Indian is so good! OH, it’s been so long since I’ve had (insert Indian food I don’t even know so I can’t guess)! YUM!
    Mike: But Lebanese is tasty too.
    Tina: Why can’t you ever help me choose something?

    I should just make trumpet noises out of the side of my mouth next time.

    Tina: Should we have meat or fish or chicken?
    Mike: Furrtttt-tootly-too!
    Tina: It’s just been so long since we’ve had fish…

    Yes, I like this plan.

    2. This is definitely a dip that eats like a meal. Because I’ve had it as one and I am so pleased with myself about it.

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Don’t believe a word he says – except as it pertains to the dip.

      • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

        Furrtttt-tootly-too!

  • Tara

    I’m making this tomorrow. It sounds AMAZING.

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Tara – if you do make it, let us know what you thought!

  • http://thespitefulchef.blogspot.com kristie

    I can’t find pomegranate molasses ANYWHERE. I might have to order it online, since I know for fax that it’s all the rage. I just bought some walnuts today, so this might enter the hopper for dinner production. I love your lebianism, Tina. I think it gives you spice.

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Kristie – Pomegranate molasses is a cat of many names. Sometimes it is labelled ‘pomegranate syrup’, ‘pomegranate concentrate’, or a number of other similar things. As long as you’re not buying a bottle of pomegranate JUICE, you’ve probably found the right stuff. It will taste like a sweet/sour grenadine, almost, and the texture is the same syrupy consistency. So if you ended up buying the wrong product and it’s too thin or sweet? Not too hard to use it up in some tasty cocktails…..

  • http://thespitefulchef.blogspot.com kristie

    Oh, and for the record I have to state that the trumpet-noise dialogue made me laugh. Out loud. Happens so infrequently (except for laughter at my own personal jokes), that I get really excited when it does. Thank you!

  • http://procrastnation.vox.com/ StPeteBeeAtch

    I was recently turned onto this site from DHAK and am thoroughly in love. I’ve since put the word out to every even vaguely food and humor person I know. The cucumber, yoghurt, mint, garlic salad has become a staple.

    Where on earth do I get pomegranate molasses? I live in southwest Florida and the only thing that occurs to me is the local european or asian shops, but is this something that most people can obtain in the grocery? I have a bottle of natural pomegranate juice, but I’m sure that won’t cut it. Thanks again for this site. Total love.

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      StPeteBeeAtch – thank you, we’re so glad that you like the site!!! Aw…I always get all toe-scuffy and blushed when people say nice things. I don’t handle these ‘feelings’ things very well….

      Pomegranate molasses can usually be found in either a Middle Eastern grocery store, or one that sells food products from the middle and far east. If you know a store that sells things like rosewater, orange blossom water or tamarind syrup, you will likely be able to find it there. I bought my first bottle from a Halal butcher, oddly enough…..Although it IS different from pomegranate juice, if you absolutely can’t find it you can do a rough counterfeit by taking a cup of pure pomegranate juice with 1-2 tbsp of sugar and boiling it down until it reduces to a thick syrup. Add in a some fresh lemon juice (which will thin it just slightly) and that’s pretty close….or about as close as your Milli Vanilli syrup will be…..

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

      Hee hee, I can actually hear Tina blushing. That’s excellent.

      And thank you for showing us around! We love doing this site, so it’s always excellent to hear when people are getting something out of it.

  • http://www.amomentofweakness.blogspot.com Tara

    Oh my freaking God, this dip was good.

    I tracked down the pomegranted molasses at the Longos in the fancy(er) suberb next door to mine and made it last night.

    I ate the entire bowl. Myself.

    I feel so dirty this morning, except that I want more.

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

      Your guilty joy is our pleasure.

  • http://www.kalofagas.blogspot.com Peter

    Ahhh, posted and here it is as you described. I love nuts in dips like this and I’ll try walnuts….pita bread anyone?

  • NoNo

    I just finished making this to take to a super bowl party this afternoon. Now I’m not sure the bowl will make it out of the house. It is so delish I’m tempted to sit down with it and a spoon. Thanks for the new addiction. I couldn’t find the pomegranate syrup so I substituted molasses and lemon juice.

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      NoNo – I’m so glad that you liked the dip! Seriously addictive stuff, isn’t it? Did you use regular pom molasses or regular molasses (like blackstrap)? That would be a really interesting flavor, it would certainly lend a rich sweetness. Mind you, I used to eat molasses out of the carton with a spoon, so maybe I’m slightly biased.

  • Slauditory

    I found this website through the DHAK portal. I saw this recipe and became obsessed with it for about a week before I broke down and made it for my knitting circle. It was fabulous! I love your recipes and your humor. I plan on making your hummus & your pita or your chicken pot pie next. I look forward to more recipes!

  • Pingback: Pasta with Olives and Feta in Roasted Red Pepper Sauce | Choosy Beggars()

  • Sandra

    EUREKA!!!! I finally found pomegranate molasses…or syrup…whatever people want to call it!!!! Now it’s time to make the dip….

  • Sandra

    Hi Tina – I made the dip for a BBQ on Saturday night and it was a big hit. Everyone enjoyed it! It’s definitely going to be made again….especially since i have leftover pomegranate molasses that i don’t know what to do with other than making this dip!!

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Sandra – that’s wonderful, we’re so glad that you and your guests enjoyed it!!! How funny, I made the dip for guests this weekend as well. Great minds think alike? Don’t worry about the leftover pom molasses, there are SO many things you can do with it! If used somewhat sparingly it adds a delicious tang and subtle sweetness to tomato sauces, braised beef, meat and rice stuffed vine leaf rolls….or desserts, like pomegranate pistachio cheesecake!!

      Anyway, thank you again for trying out the dip, and we’re so glad that you enjoyed it!!!

  • Alison Cawley

    I made Muhammara on Saturday when I had guests for dinner. I can only echo Tina’s own words: possibly the best dip I have ever made. Given that there are so few ingredients, the richness of flavour is fabulous, and you’re so right about the texture being part of the joy of it. This one will become a staple dish at my house.

    I love the witty way you write your recipes, too; a good antidote to any kitchen stress, as I laugh at quips like “That doesn’t mean that you need to break the budget buying fancy-shmancy artisanal goats milk feta made by a monastic farmer in northern Greece, but you’d be wise to steer clear of the vacuum sealed Ziggy’s discount feta that holds court beside the Velveeta and Cheez Strings.”

    No problem buying pomegranate molasses here (Perth, Western Australia), but I’ve never seen red pepper flakes either here or in the UK. I feel a quest coming on …

    Thanks for another gorgeous recipe.

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Alison – thank you for the comment, and greetings to our new Australian friend! How glad are we that you enjoyed this dip? Hey, we like it so much that it was one of the appetizers at our wedding last fall (which terrified me at first, but the caterers actually did a really good job…thank god).

      As for the red pepper flakes, perhaps they go by another name where you are? They’re the same little chili seeds and flakes that you would sprinkle on pizza or pasta:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crushed_red_pepper
      We know them here as either red pepper or just simply red chili flakes, and they’re quite common. However, if it’s not just the name I used that’s catching you up and Australia really does have a shortage of chili flakes, at least you can console yourself with my utter and complete jealousy at the fresh seafood selection you get. That’s something, right??

  • Alison Cawley

    Hi, Tina. I read about your having this dip at your wedding, and thought how lovely that was, having one of your own recipes and something special to the two of you. And you’ve solved the pepper flakes mystery – yes, here it’s called just “chilli flakes”. (http://www.abcoe.com.au/products/product/20-HSCG20S?category=SAXA). Thank you!

    As a newcomer to Australia, I’ve had to learn a whole new language; not red peppers, but capsicums; not chicory, but witlof; and so it goes on.

    You’re right to be jealous of our awesome seafood. When I got here I bought a fish cookbook so I could learn to cook all these fish I’d never heard of – but Australian cookbooks are very focused on what’s available in the eastern states, whereas here in the west we have a different ocean and a whole different set of fish! So the answer was to get to know my wonderful local fishmonger, who recommends what I should buy and how I should cook it. Mmmm, dhufish! Tonight’s dinner will be Rankin cod in panko breadcrumbs, another favourite.

    Tomorrow is Australia Day, so raise a glass to all your fans down under. Mine’s a Swan Valley sparkling Chardonnay – cheers!

    Alison