Flaming Hot and Mediterranean
When exploring the origins of a Levantine dish, I have always found it really difficult to trace it to just one of the countries on the East Mediterranean. The entire region eats very similar foods if not the same food. However, there is one dish that I am sure originated in Aleppo, Northern Syria. It happens to be one of my favorite appetizers and I truly enjoy making it every time.
I was first introduced to Muhammara by Artur, an Armenian tailor that used to fix some of my grandmother’s dresses. I would go with her when I was little and he always fed us the most delicious food. As soon as we walked in, he would open his fridge and pull out something that was always out of this world! Now I realize that he was a big foodie, just like me!
There is a significant number of Armenians living in the Levant and they brought with them a culinary fusion that enriched the already extravagant cuisine of the Levant. While Muhammara originated in Aleppo, the Armenians added their touches to it and created a delicious variation that I enjoy just as much as the original. I have created my own variation influenced by both versions.
Traditionally this dish is made with pecans or bread crumbs that are ground and made into a paste. I found that adding almonds and pistachios to it made it even more delicious. I also tend to make it very spicy as I love spicy food. This is one of those dishes where I like my mouth to tingle and eventually go numb! Something about a flaming bite of Muhammara with Pita bread that just drives me insane.
1 cup of pecans
1 cup of whole almonds
1 cup of pistachios
1.5 cups of water
1 cup of olive oil
1 tbs White sesame seeds
1 tbs Black sesame seeds
2 tsps cumin
2 tsps Aleppo pepper powder (or Chili pepper powder)
1 tsps Hot paprika
2 tbs pomegranate syrup
3 tbs red chili pepper paste
Put the pecans, almonds and pistachios in the food processor. After they are finely ground the texture will turn into that of a paste as the oils gush out. Move to a mixing bowl and add the water and olive oil. Let them sit for a few minutes then add all the ingredients and mix very well, preferably with your own hands. Now if you liked this extra spicy or if you even dare to go there, throw a habanero in the food processor and numb your face!