The weight of this week hasn’t made me want to write about food. In light of recent events, it feels frivolous – and almost obscene – to blather on about cooking. It isn’t just Paris. It’s all of it. It’s Beirut. It’s Bamako. It’s the unconscionable rhetoric surrounding the Syrian refugee crisis. It’s the pundits who dissect every single detail of a horrifying event to spread their bigotry and fearmongering. It’s the fact that – amid all the pain and suffering – our impulse is to turn against eachother, to become wary and suspicious; to slam doors on the most vulnerable.
This post, in contrast, is an invitation. An invitation to gather, to extend a loving gesture, to bring people in close. Breaking bread with others can be a unifying force – it can foster greater acceptance and understanding of others; it can quell intolerance. Most of all, though, it is a tangible expression of unadulterated love.
World peace might not be a realistic expectation. But we can, at the very least, try to love one another a little more. So, at least for a little while, turn off the radio, shut off your computer, your phone. Silence the hot-air pundits. Bring together friends, family, and new faces too – to share, to love, to eat, with a heart that’s open and filled with gratitude.
Eat well, be well, dear readers. See you here again soon x
Traditional Muhammara (red pepper walnut dip from Turkey, via Syria)
Adapted from Olga Irez’s Delicious Istanbul
Serves 10 as appetizer/meze
- 6-7 large (about 1 kg) red bell peppers
- 1 large (about 60g) slice wholewheat bread, torn
- 1/2 packed cup finely ground walnuts
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil and more for serving
- 1/2 tbsp pomegranate molasses*
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 tsp fresh mint
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp ground coriander
- 1/4 tsp hot red pepper flakes and more for serving
- 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
*I was able to find pomegranate molasses at my local Middle Eastern shop, but it can also be found in some regular grocery stores (PA in Montreal stocks it). Otherwise, you can replace it with lemon juice (though, you won’t get that nice sweetness that pomegranate molasses adds to the dip). Note: don’t buy the stuff that’s used as a syrup to add to carbonated water; the stuff you want is thick (like traditional molasses) and also goes by the name “pomegranate concentrated juice”.
1) Preheat the oven to 400F. Wash the peppers and arange them on a large baking tray and let roast, skin-on, for about 30 min, or until the peppers puff up and start to get charred spots. Set aside to cool while you are gathering the rest of the ingredients.
2) When the peppers are cool enough to handle, remove the stems along with the seeds and peel off the skins. Place the peeled red peppers in a colander and let the juices drain into a bowl below (Olga Irez suggests reserving the juice to add to soups or stews and cook your grains in. You can even freeze the juice for future use).
3) Place the drained red peppers and garlic in the food processor and pulse into a purée. Soak the bread slice in water, then squeeze out the liquid. Toss the wet crumb in the blender and pulse into a smooth purée. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix with a spoon until combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.
4) To serve, transfer to a wide bowl and with the back of a spoon, make a light impression in the centre of the dip. Drizzle a bit of olive oil into the centre and sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Serve with flat bread.
Note: Muhammara can be refrigerated for up to 2-3 days.