Think you like hummus? Wait until you try Muhammara, a decadent dip originating from Syria that will make your world explode with creamy, comforting goodness.
Prior to the nightmare that has been Covid-19, I loved frequenting the Peacock Lounge at the Proper Hotel here in Austin, where I first discovered this outstanding treat. Served with warm pita and a zesty cocktail or shrub, this is hands down my favorite appetizer or mezze to enjoy while lounging in the colorful middle eastern inspired lounge lobby with friends. And then, just like that, the entire world was turned upside down due to a virus that literally made society come to a screeching halt, and along with it, entertaining, dining out, bountiful grocery store visits. The pandemic proved the terrifying reality that these great United States was woefully under-prepared to handle the wave of illness headed its way. And so we all did our part and took shelter for what we thought would be a fortnight and stretched in to two months. I was blessed to be able to work from home, despite my worries for my team who stayed working the front lines with the public at my office. They adapted beautifully, and I did my best to pray for them and send food to nourish them and send them my love from afar. It has been the strangest and most unsettling and surreal of times. Not a war, but in a way still a battle, only with an invisible killer.
My anxieties hit a peak when we had to take one of our beloved pugs and put him to sleep- socially distanced as I tearfully soothed him with my voice. I lost my appetite and with it, five pounds shed from worry. And then I began to learn and practice daily meditation and slowly felt my limbs and my breath relax and return to life, and with it, my love of cooking. We made some tremendous meals throughout the sheltering and I was thankful I have learned to be resourceful and stock a pantry, as supplies were at one point very limited in our formerly abundant stores. There are just the two of us, so we have no back up freezer as the majority in our area have. They were the fortunate and dare I say, greedy ones, who stockpiled all the shelves at our local store. They ate well, so did we, but with much planning and frugality. My Depression era father thankfully taught me how to stretch out a meal and get creative.
I was craving my favorite treat from the Peacock, so I googled muhammara recipes and with the staples I had on hand, made a rather good knock off which was a huge hit with my husband. He could dip handfuls of homemade pita into the creamy dip. Being gluten free, I enjoyed it with crudites or Simple Mills almond flour Rosemary and sea salt crackers. The recipe calls for Pomegranate molasses, of which I did not have, so I made due with pomegranate juice in the back of the fridge. I scored some fresh seeds from a Whole Foods delivery on the rare, and lucky day they had a slot open after weeks of none. They even had some chicken that day! I realize I still had many blessings to count as so many around the globe have lost their jobs and all sense of normality and security.
Things were looking up, until our refrigerator and freezer broke. The Russian repairman who spoke but a few words of broken English, typed in his google translator that our fridge was beyond repair. We hurriedly went to the home improvement store to find another one. A rush delivery would be six days out. I felt deflated and despaired that the small amount of food we managed to procure would all go to waste. Somehow, by a miracle, the freezer held it's temps until the new fridge came. It was quite the relief and I was so grateful my prayers were answered. This dip, while not quite as good as the one I enjoy at the Peacock, will always hold a bittersweet memory for me as we embrace the new way of life.
1 12 oz jar of Roasted Red Bell Peppers, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup creamy almond butter
2 roasted cloves of garlic (I smoked mine in the Big Green Egg)
2 teaspoons allepo or cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons sea salt
4 tablespoons or pomegranate juice and 1 pinch of sugar
Olive oil, pistachios and pomegranate seeds to garnish
Blend all the ingredients except for the garnish until smooth and creamy. Add a little water if it is too thick.
Drizzle with olive oil, garnish and serve at room temperature with crudites, warm pita or crackers.
Stays sealed in a container in fridge for a week.