Saturday, November 20, 2010

POM Perfect Thanksgiving Appetizer: Muhummara, Hummus' Kissin' Cousin.


    The week coming up is known around are house as Get Out Of My Way I'm Cooking Dammit Week! This is the time when the kitchen becomes my arena and I go into cage-match mode with a turkey. However, this year I am not making a turkey. This year I am cooking for a smaller crowd than usual, so I am in Tuscan Thanksgiving mode since my parents are suspicious of anything else that might be on the table.
   We live in Sonoma which is Wine Country. It's also Cheese Country and I happen to be lucky enough to  count among my friends some of the best artisanal cheesemakers around here. Sheana Davis is one, whose prize winning Delice de La Vallee Cheese can be found on the menu of the French Laundry and fine cheeseshops around the country. So when we do cheese around here, we're not talking about that port-wine-drizzled bowling ball that arrives in the mail from Aunt Tina. We really do cheese. I will be serving some of these excellent cheeses at my house this Thanksgiving; my family loves them. I will not however be serving the recipe I am about to share with you, and that is only because I know my parents would never eat it. Clam dip with dried onion soup mix (remember that one?) is about as daring as my mom gets. The line has been drawn and it will go no further.
   So what is this mysterious appetizer?  Muhummara is it's name, don't wear it out. I discovered Muhummara while I was planning my big POM Wonderful dinner. I wanted to make sure I had something on the table when my guests arrived. I wanted to make sure that during my final preparations of the entree, I would not be disturbed. I wanted to make them happy so they would not be constantly asking me when the food would be ready. Boy howdy, did I succeed.
   For those of you who  have never heard of Muhummara, join the club.  As I said, it's kissin' cousin to Hummus but instead of chickpeas, it's made of roasted red peppers and walnuts and other good stuff. It's hot and sweet and spicy and the perfect foil for whatever you're planning on serving later. It also goes great as a relish with everything from kebabs to roast chicken. Trust me I've tried it. It kicks ass!!
   Since my POM meal was of mixed  Middle Eastern/North Indian origin, it was the perfect opening act. It also makes up in about 15 minutes and then mellows a bit before serving. For the busy T-day cook, what's not to like about that?!


Muhummara



   Here's my adaptation of a classic Muhummara recipe.
   Grind one slice or small roll of french or Italian bread in the blender or food processor until you have a bowl of crumbs.
 In a dry pan toast 1 cup of California Walnut pieces
When they're nice and toasty, save a few out for sprinkling across the top of the muhummara  and toss the rest into the food processor along with:
   2 Tbs of olive oil
   1 Tbs of tomato paste
   2 Tbs of pomegranate molasses
   1 tsp of ground cumin
   1 tsp of kosher salt
   1 cup of roasted red peppers. I used a jar of  roasted bell peppers that my friend Ron Mezzetta had given me.
  Up to 1 tsp of coarsely ground Aleppo pepper or 1/2 tsp Hungarian Paprika. I used a jar of special  Aleppo pepper that Paula Wolfert brought back for me from her last trip to Morocco.
   Grind it all together in the food processor.
 Taste for flavor. It should be hot and smokey sweet. Cover it and let it rest for at least 20 minutes or so for the flavors to blend. Check the taste again just before you serve and make any adjustments you'd like, then sprinkle the bit of roasted chopped walnuts you have left over and some pomegranate arils over the top and you're good to go. Of course before serving, Alan  my House Paparazzi had to get a couple of shots.
Feel free to experiment, some people like to add mint, or garlic, or sugar. Have fun.
   You can serve this with pita bread or crackers or raw veggies, anything good for dipping. I grilled some flatbread out-doors since my oven was fully occupied. Before baking, I drizzled it with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and a bit of coarse salt.
    
  Okay, now after writing about this and seeing the pictures again. I'm making it for Thanksgiving after all. This stuff is too damn good! After all, if my parents are too  picky to eat it, more for the rest of us.

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