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THE CONFIDENT COOK

Recipe: Muhammara, from the cookbook ‘Arabiyya,’ is a delicious roasted red pepper-walnut spread

Roasted Red Pepper-Walnut Spread (Muhammara)Sheryl Julian for The Boston Globe

Makes about 1 cup or enough to serve 4

Muhammara, the Arabic word for a spread made with roasted red peppers and walnuts, translates as "something that is red," writes Reem Assil in her very good new book, "Arabiyya: Recipes from the Life of an Arab in Diaspora." Assil, the daughter of a Palestinian mother and Syrian father, was raised in Sudbury. She is the chef-owner of Reem's in San Francisco and Oakland, Calif., and was a 2022 James Beard nominee for Outstanding Chef. On Aug. 11 she will do a book signing and cooking demo with Ana Sortun and Maura Kilpatrick at Sofra Bakery and Cafe in Cambridge (e-mail: classes@sofrabakery.com). The thick bell peppers for muhammara are roasted and peeled for the spread, though Assil says you also can use roasted, peeled peppers from a jar or can. They're whirred in a food processor with walnuts, cumin, panko, garlic, lemon juice, and pomegranate molasses. "The secret ingredient is a backdrop of sweet and tart pomegranate molasses to brighten all the other flavors," she writes. The molasses is essentially concentrated pomegranate juice; it can be drizzled on all kinds of roast meats, meatballs, or sweet dishes such as puddings. You can boil down your own pomegranate juice, she writes, until it's reduced to one-quarter of its original volume, when it will thickly coat a spoon. Pomegranate molasses is available at many Middle Eastern markets (Assil calls the Arabic-speaking regions she writes about Southwest Asian and North African, or SWANA). The spread can be tossed with pasta or scooped up with pita. Spanish romesco sauce has qualities of muhammara, which isn't surprising since the Iberian Peninsula was under Islamic rule for almost 800 years, beginning in the 8th century.

2large red bell peppers or 1 can or jar (8 ounces) roasted red peppers, drained and rinsed
¾cup walnuts
¼cup panko or other unseasoned dry white breadcrumbs
1clove garlic
2teaspoons pomegranate molasses
Juice of 1/2 lemon, or more to taste
1teaspoon Aleppo or maras pepper
½teaspoon salt, or more to taste
¼teaspoon ground cumin
2tablespoons olive oil
Extra olive oil (for sprinkling)
1tablespoon chopped parsley (for garnish)
Extra chopped walnuts (for garnish)

1. If using fresh bell peppers: Set the oven at 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Place the fresh peppers on the baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes, or until the skins are charred, turning once or twice. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside until cool. Remove the peppers from the bowl, pull off and discard the skins, and discard the stems and seeds.

3. For either fresh or canned peppers: Cut the peppers into 2-inch pieces.

4. In a food processor combine the walnuts and panko or breadcrumbs. Pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Add the peppers, garlic, molasses, lemon juice, Aleppo or maras pepper, salt, and cumin. Pulse again until smooth, scraping down the sides of the work bowl as needed.

5. With the motor running, remove the insert in the feed rube and slowly add the oil in a thin steady stream until it is all added. Taste for seasoning and add more lemon juice or salt, if you like. (At this point you can refrigerate the spread in an airtight container for up to 1 week.)

6. Spoon the mixture into a shallow serving dish. Use the back of a spoon to create little divots for the oil to fall into. Sprinkle with oil and garnish with parsley and walnuts. Serve with pita.

Sheryl Julian. Adapted from "Arabiyya"

Makes about 1 cup or enough to serve 4

Muhammara, the Arabic word for a spread made with roasted red peppers and walnuts, translates as "something that is red," writes Reem Assil in her very good new book, "Arabiyya: Recipes from the Life of an Arab in Diaspora." Assil, the daughter of a Palestinian mother and Syrian father, was raised in Sudbury. She is the chef-owner of Reem's in San Francisco and Oakland, Calif., and was a 2022 James Beard nominee for Outstanding Chef. On Aug. 11 she will do a book signing and cooking demo with Ana Sortun and Maura Kilpatrick at Sofra Bakery and Cafe in Cambridge (e-mail: classes@sofrabakery.com). The thick bell peppers for muhammara are roasted and peeled for the spread, though Assil says you also can use roasted, peeled peppers from a jar or can. They're whirred in a food processor with walnuts, cumin, panko, garlic, lemon juice, and pomegranate molasses. "The secret ingredient is a backdrop of sweet and tart pomegranate molasses to brighten all the other flavors," she writes. The molasses is essentially concentrated pomegranate juice; it can be drizzled on all kinds of roast meats, meatballs, or sweet dishes such as puddings. You can boil down your own pomegranate juice, she writes, until it's reduced to one-quarter of its original volume, when it will thickly coat a spoon. Pomegranate molasses is available at many Middle Eastern markets (Assil calls the Arabic-speaking regions she writes about Southwest Asian and North African, or SWANA). The spread can be tossed with pasta or scooped up with pita. Spanish romesco sauce has qualities of muhammara, which isn't surprising since the Iberian Peninsula was under Islamic rule for almost 800 years, beginning in the 8th century.

2large red bell peppers or 1 can or jar (8 ounces) roasted red peppers, drained and rinsed
¾cup walnuts
¼cup panko or other unseasoned dry white breadcrumbs
1clove garlic
2teaspoons pomegranate molasses
Juice of 1/2 lemon, or more to taste
1teaspoon Aleppo or maras pepper
½teaspoon salt, or more to taste
¼teaspoon ground cumin
2tablespoons olive oil
Extra olive oil (for sprinkling)
1tablespoon chopped parsley (for garnish)
Extra chopped walnuts (for garnish)

1. If using fresh bell peppers: Set the oven at 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Place the fresh peppers on the baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes, or until the skins are charred, turning once or twice. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside until cool. Remove the peppers from the bowl, pull off and discard the skins, and discard the stems and seeds.

3. For either fresh or canned peppers: Cut the peppers into 2-inch pieces.

4. In a food processor combine the walnuts and panko or breadcrumbs. Pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Add the peppers, garlic, molasses, lemon juice, Aleppo or maras pepper, salt, and cumin. Pulse again until smooth, scraping down the sides of the work bowl as needed.

5. With the motor running, remove the insert in the feed rube and slowly add the oil in a thin steady stream until it is all added. Taste for seasoning and add more lemon juice or salt, if you like. (At this point you can refrigerate the spread in an airtight container for up to 1 week.)

6. Spoon the mixture into a shallow serving dish. Use the back of a spoon to create little divots for the oil to fall into. Sprinkle with oil and garnish with parsley and walnuts. Serve with pita.Sheryl Julian. Adapted from "Arabiyya"


Sheryl Julian can be reached at sheryl.julian@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @sheryljulian.