We’re having an impromptu New Year’s Eve “party” tonight. I put party in quotations because we’re not exactly a wild bunch. We’re having food, alcohol, and friends on NYE, so I feel like it qualifies as a party, but we’re doing a lot more playing of board games than dancing on tables.
I’ve wanted to make muhammara for awhile now and tonight seemed like a good night! It’s really pretty easy to make, especially if you have a decent food processor. I mostly followed the recipe of my old faithful, Yotam Ottolenghi, for this one. If it’s any type of food from the greater Middle East, I feel like he makes it and makes it well! Muhammara originates from Aleppo, Syria, so the use of Aleppo pepper in the dish just feels important and necessary to me. Unfortunately, the civil war in Syria has greatly decreased world-wide supply of Aleppo pepper.* (*Obviously, this is not the most important negative impact of the Syrian civil war.) But with that in mind, if you don’t have any/can’t find any, you can substitute a smaller quantity of crushed red pepper flakes. (Aleppo pepper isn’t quite as spicy and has a deeper depth of flavor + a slight sweetness as compared to crushed red pepper. Some suggest a mixture of sweet paprika & cayenne/crushed red pepper is a okay approximation.) This spread is popular from Syria through Turkey and the Caucasus, with some regional variations. The main ingredients always include red pepper and walnuts (the basis of the dip), Aleppo pepper, and olive oil.
Also, for your party hosting pleasure, this recipe would be very easy to scale up. This yielded ~ 2 cups.
Hope you enjoy!
Happy New Year!! 🎉🎇🥂🖤
(Adapted slightly from Ottolenghi)
- 3 red bell peppers
- Olive oil
- 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs [I actually used cracker crumbs – crushed matzoh from our Potato Latkes the other night]
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tbsp Aleppo pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2/3 cup walnut pieces
- Salt to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice bell peppers in half, removing the stems & seeds, and place on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and roast until blackened and blistering, ~30-35 minutes.
- Meanwhile, grind up the walnuts in a food processor. You want them to be fairly finely ground, but still have some texture. Set to the side.
- Peel the skin off of the red peppers once they are cool enough to handle.
- Place peppers, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, bread crumbs, cumin, Aleppo pepper, and garlic in the food processor. Pulse until well-combined. Again, don’t over-process and destroy all of the texture.
- By hand, stir in the walnuts into the rest of the ingredients.
- Add salt to taste.
- When serving, top with a drizzle of olive oil. Serve at room temperature.
Today is World Food Day. I’m not going to lie, when I saw that name, I thought – “Yesssssss, a day dedicated to my favorite thing, food! Let’s eat tons of food in the name of this brilliant holiday!” Well, I guess that’s sort of true, but come to find out, there’s a lot more behind this holiday than my original superficial thoughts. World Food Day was created by the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization to commemorate the founding of that branch of the UN. Their goal for this day and its events around the world is to “promote worldwide awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and for the need to ensure food security and nutritious diets for all.” Check out their website for more information and details.
Each year, World Food Day has a theme, usually reflective of the geopolitical issues of the world. The theme relates back to one of the organization’s overall goals – #ZeroHunger by 2030. For example, 2016’s WFD concentrated on climate change, 2011’s on food pricing, 1998’s on women, and 1987’s on small farmers. The theme for 2017 focuses on the vast numbers of migrants and refugees through the lens of food. Their focus is on mitigating the need for migration through increasing food security. Of course, many migrants and refugees don’t have the option of remaining in their homes, and are at incredibly high risk for hunger and food insecurity.
For us and this blog, this day turned out to be even more of an inspiration for our dinner (and blog post, obviously) than I originally anticipated. In honor of the day and this year’s theme, I decided to use our dinner to pay homage to the incredibly devastating humanitarian crisis coming out of Syria. The last statistics I saw stated that there are 5.1 million Syrian refugees and 6.6 million internally displaced people. I think sometimes, whether it’s because of the sheer volume of the negative news barrage or perhaps even personal biases, we don’t think about the individual people behind the buzz phrase “refugee crisis.” What would we do if we were in their shoes? Certainly our dinner and little blog aren’t going to improve the lives of any refugees, but it can’t hurt. Food is a great equalizer; we all need it and most of us love it. I like to think that food can be the bridge and shrink our large, scattered world, one meal at a time!
And if you had to pick a new meal to try, this would be a great one! The flavors are delicious and a quite a bit different than your average American meatball. We served it over rice and were thinking that the only thing that might make this better, would be a sprinkling of feta cheese on top!
Syrian Mini Meatballs (Dawood Basha)
- 1lb ground beef
- 1/3 cup chopped parsley + more for garnish
- 2 tsp baharat, divided [I made this mix myself, following these proportions]
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 3 medium fresh tomatoes
- Salt & pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a large bowl, mix together ground beef with chopped parsley, 1 tsp baharat, 1/2 tsp salt, and a few turns of fresh ground black pepper.
- Roll out mixture into small, ~1 inch meatballs. Lay out on a cookie sheet lined with foil.
- Bake meatballs for 20 minutes so they have begun to brown.
- Meanwhile, in a pan with high edges, heat the oil. Once warm, add the sliced onions. Top with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
- Cook, stirring occasionally, for at least 15 minutes until onions are nice and browned.
- Puree the tomatoes in a food processor (or dice by hand).
- Add the tomatoes puree to the pan with the onions. Cook for 20 minutes over medium-high heat, still stirring occasionally, as some liquid burns off and the sauce thickens.
- Add the meatballs to the pan. Continue to simmer the tomato sauce, lowering heat slightly, for an additional 20 minutes, coating the meatballs with the sauce.
- Five minutes prior to serving, stir in the remaining 1 tsp of baharat and additional salt & pepper if needed.
- Serve garnished with additional parsley if desired.