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A Nice Chianti and Fava Beans? No. Muhammara? Thumbs Off–er, Up

I’ll never forget the phrase that haunted me for months when I was about 16: delivered in a low, undulating murmur heard through the telephone receiver, a deep, throaty male voice posed a simple question:  “Have you checked the children?”

Anyone who recognizes that line is familiar with the horror movie When a Stranger Calls.  The premise is simple:  a young woman is babysitting.  Repeatedly, a strange man calls to ask if she’s checked the children.  Eventually, she twigs in that this guy might just spell trouble, so she contacts the police to report the caller.  “No problem, Miss,” the helpful lieutenant replies. “We’ll just trace the call and see where it’s coming from.”  You can guess what’s next, right? When the subsequent call arrives, it’s the frantic police officer, warning the young woman to hightail it out of there: “It’s YOUR telephone number!  The calls are coming from INSIDE THE HOUSE!!” 

Egads.  I still get chills when I think of that scene.

I know that horror movies are immensely popular, but I must admit that I don’t exactly, um, cleave to the genre very much (which, I suppose, would more appropriately be “cleaver,” in this case, anyway).  I find nothing causes the blood to drain from my face and a gut-churning queasiness to overtake my innards quite so easily as the image of Jack Nicholson’s unctuous, demented grin poking through that ravaged pane in the door, drawling, “Heeeeere’s Johnny!” .  Or how about the eerie, portentous silence that precedes the faceoff between Ripley and the alien in the original Alien?  (Let’s just say I’m hoping those nail marks I dug into the the HH’s forearm will fade eventually). 

I must confess, after seeing that last film, I finally swore off this type of movie for good. As a consequence, I have yet to see the original PsychoI’ve also forfeited a good excuse to sidle up to the HH on the couch as we watch Invasion of the Body Snatchers; and I will remain forever ignorant of other modern classics such as Hallowe’en, or Se7en, or Shaun of the Dead. I mean, seriously, are 90 minutes of spectacular, digitally-enhanced bloody geysers, headless torsos and disembodied entrails really worth 48 hours of elevated blood pressure?

Now, you may ask, just why am I rambling on about horror movies at this particular juncture? It’s not that I’m no longer traumatized by them, or that I’ve recently relented and watched one. No, nothing of the sort. The reason I’ve got horror movies on the brain is an innocuous Middle Eastern sweet pepper dip (if anything that’s brilliant red can be considered innocuous when discussed in the context of horror, that is). 

You see, when the CFO visited a few weeks back, we had a lovely dinner with my friend The Eternal Optimist and her beau.  The menu included all manner of delectable dishes as well as a fresh, crisp Sauvignon Blanc (oh, to sip on a little sauvignon blanc these days!  Damn you, ACD!).  As I mentioned in a previous post, we enjoyed quinoa and black bean bites, rice and almond balls from Laura Matthias’ ExtraVeganZa, the ubiquitous (in this house, anyway) Caesar salad from Veganomicon,  Nutroast Extraordinaire, spiced sweet potato fries, and a gluten-free berries and cream tart for dessert. The third appetizer, at my sister’s suggestion, was muhammara.

While I’m a fan of many types of Middle Eastern dishes from baba ghanouj to hummus to halvah, I had never heard of muhammara (and yet, a Google search on the dip yields a multitude of entries–this stuff has been around for eons!).  Every time my sis uttered the word, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Vincent Price’s classic, villainous laugh, Baby Jane’s self-satisfied cackle as she serves up that dinner surprise, or even Count Floyd’s satiric rendition in Monster Chiller Horror Theater.

Here, try it yourself:  “Mmmmwoohhhaaaaahaaahaaa–marra!!”  Heh heh.

So you can see why, from that moment onward, the eternal pairing of muhammara and horror movies was born. 

Yesterday, as I was musing about what I can eat on this cleanse (actually, I muse about what I can eat most days, cleanse or no), I remembered the muhammara.  Could it be that following the ACD is beginning to feel like a horror movie?  Perhaps.  In any case, the dip’s ingredients are all fairly antagonistic to candida: it’s really just a puréed veggie spread made primarily of roasted red pepper, walnuts, garlic and olive oil. The only questionable items were the pomegranate syrup and bread; and I figured that if I made my own sugar-free syrup (without added sugar) and omitted the bread, this would loosely qualify for my new, “more flexible” form of the ACD.  The result, even without the bread, was still entirely appealing, and made a wonderful dinner with baby carrots and a rice casserole.   

This recipe, which I adapted from here, is so simple it almost qualifies as a “Flash in the Pan.”  However, since the peppers must first be roasted, peeled and seeded, and since it requires pomegranate syrup (essential, but not hard to make your own), I decided it was a bit too much work for that category.  On the other hand, it’s definitely not too much work to whip up in the afternoon as a pre-prandial appetizer if you’ve been dreaming of smooth, creamy, slightly sweet and slightly tangy flavors during the day.  It’s also perfect as a light meal before a night out (just be sure to choose your babysitter wisely).

And since the predominant ingredient in the muhammara is red peppers, I’m submitting this recipe to Sunshinemom at Tongue Ticklers, who’s hosting the “Food in Colors” event.  This month’s theme is “red” (as in, “blood.”  As in, “slasher movie.”  As in, “Have you checked the children. . . ?”)

Muhammara (adapted from Cooking with Amy)

This was a lovely, satisfying precursor to our dinner last night (a simple steamed veggie affair), that allowed me to indulge the need for something tasty without completely abandoning my ACD resolve. And with the hefty portion of walnuts included, it provides both a source of protein and heart-healthy Omega 3 fats.

3 large red bell peppers

2 cups walnut halves

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 slice spelt or kamut sourdough bread (optional)

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cumin

pinch cayenne (optional)

2 Tbsp. pomegranate syrup*

Preheat oven to 400F ( C) and place peppers on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Roast for about 45 minutes, until very soft and skins begin to blacken.  (If you have a gas stove, you can roast the pepper directly over the flame of an element–it will be much faster).  Remove from oven, place in a paper bag, and allow to cool.  Once cool, peel away the skins, cut open and remove seeds.

While the pepper is roasting, toast the walnuts on another rack of the oven for about 7 minutes, until fragrant and beginning to brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

In a food processor, process the garlic and bread until crumbly.  Add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth.  Adjust seasonings and process again to mix.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  This is even better the next day.

* To make your own pomegranate syrup, take 2 cups of unsweetened pomegranate juice and simmer down to about 1/4 cup, until the syrup is thick and easily coats a spoon.




24 comments to A Nice Chianti and Fava Beans? No. Muhammara? Thumbs Off–er, Up

  • I looove horror films 😉

    That muhammara looks delish!


  • Celine

    have I told you lately that I ♥ you? I also love me some horror movies.


  • Your posts make me crack up, Ricki. I love it!

    This muuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhaaammmmm — mara sounds delicious! It’d be a nice break from my typical hummus dip.


  • veganhomemade

    This dip sounds deightful! I’ve never heard of it, but I don’t see how you can go wrong with roasted red peppers and walnuts.

    I’m with you on the scary movies. I get so worked up that I get headaches and upset tummies and nightmares. I don’t ask my bf to watch cheesy romances, and he doesn’t ask me to watch scary movies.

    Although, I have to say that Se7en is kind of a classic, worth watching. Just don’t look when they’re investigating the scene with the “sloth” victim lying in bed, it’s terrifying 🙂


  • I haven’t made Muhammara in a while and as soon as poms are back in season, I will have to fix that!

    I avoid creepy movies because they scare the heck out of me. thankfully, the thought of a gorgeous dip makes it all better.


  • I’ve never had Muhammara, but it sure sounds delicious!


  • bee

    how i love muhammara!!! luckily our local afghan store has organic pomegranate paste with no additives.


  • Love muhammara; hate horror flicks.


  • I’d never heard of muhammara…which sounds like “munumuna” – which makes me think of that random song from the 70s (I think it was from the 70s, maybe older) “do do do do do…manamana…do do do do…manamana”. I digress…
    I have also never seen Psycho, and tend to shun honestly scary, as in psychological fear, flicks. My nightmares are already so terrifying – I don’t need any fodder to fuel them at all!


  • Courtney

    I have yet to get over my fear of mixing sweet and savory in my cooking! Normally, if I were to see this recipe and make this, I would leave out the pomegranate syrup. I don’t know WHY I am scared of mixing the flavors together! Does the syrup actually make the dip sweet?!



  • Your posts are a joy to read; always so well-written.

    I like to stay far, far away from horror flicks. They give me nightmares. Yes, I’m a scaredy-vegan.


  • I had books I couldn’t read as a child because the cover scared me too much – but have now watched more horror than is good for me (including psycho) with E who is a fan. My advice is that the old black and white movies are more palatable – the last time I laughed at one because I could see the strings I found out that the strings were part of the plot!

    I like your take on the name muhammara – it is lots of fun to say and tastes good tossed through roasted vegies.


  • I remember jerking in my chair when I saw Aliens – the first one, and the Omen series which were not exactly horror movies! I usually watch them with my palms covering my eyes, and a small gap between two finger:) I am that scared! Completely new dish to me too – this muhammara, but it sounds delicious! Thanks for participating:)


  • Robin

    I don’t like horror movies much either, but you really should give Shaun of the Dead a go – it’s a comedy, not a horror film. Honest you won’t be digging your nails into anything!


  • Ok, so I enjoy reading your posts and dipping into your life. I appreciated the recipe. But, now I have had to put on the lights and don’t think I will be sleeping much because of night terrors. I wish I had read this post this morning when it was bright and sunny and NOT before going to bed. Ahhhhhhhhhh :0


  • VeggieGirl,
    My hat’s off to you re: the horror movies (at least it’s not my head!) 😉

    Me love you too <3 . Horror movies, not so much.

    Yes, this would be a great alternative to hummus! I love hummus, but do sometimes feel like a change.

    Just reading your sentence about “sloth” and “bed” and “horrifying” sent chills down my spine!!

    It’s true, a good dip does tend to make many things better 🙂

    It was my first try too, and I just loved it immediately! Worth a try.

    How lucky to get the paste! Though I think my homemade syrup turned out pretty good–and fairly easy to do, too.

    I’m so with you!!

    See? The name just brings to mind other words! I’ve never heard of that song, though–and I’m a fan of the 70s. Hmmn!! And I have no desire to watch Psycho–I’m sure I’d have the same reaction as you.

    Have no fear! It’s actually not very sweet; the pom just adds a bit of tang to the mix, I think. Though red peppers are a bit sweet on their own, anyway.

    Awww, thanks! And moi aussi–tres grande scaredy-pup!

    For some reason, books haven’t scared me yet (thankfully!). I love your take on the muhammara–will try it with the veggies next time!

    Thanks so much! Looking forward to the roundup as well. 🙂

    Glad to hear about Shaun of the Dead (it was included in a list of top horror flicks, so I just assumed). May actually give it a try, then.

    Sounds like we are one of a kind. Sorry to spoil your evening! Have some muhammara to make it better. . . 😉


  • I used to love scary movies, but have turned into such a sensitive baby! Your muhammara looks fab. I’ve been afraid to make it, in case I didn’t like, since I feel horrible about wasting food.


  • Andrea

    This looks so good – the kind of rich and satisfying food you need to balance challenging dietary restrictions!

    And if you DO decide to watch Invasion of the Body Snatchers, opt for the original. But think twice – you know you can’t see or hear what’s happening in that dark basement…

    I also resist scary movies, especially the gross ones. Even Jaws did me in, and I knew within the first two minutes of the film that I’d made a terrible mistake!


  • I LOVE muhummara. Love it love it love it.


  • Hi Ricki,

    I’ve never had muhummara before – it reminds me of hummus, so I’ll have to try it one day since I love hummus!

    I’ve tagged you with a meme – hopefully you’ll have time to take a look.



  • giz

    I’ve left my body and running down the street in horror – that movie scared the hell out of me. just hearing the words is enough – shudder.


  • I have a bottle of pomegranate molasses I bought at least a year ago because I was so excited to finally find it… but I haven’t used it yet! And I’ve never had this dip though I’m always looking for new and healthy dips. Anyway, your dip looks delicious and I should try it. =)


  • destinyskitchen,
    What? Afraid of muhammara? No need. Why not start with a half recipe, just in case–but really, this has nothing in common with horror movies!

    I guess it DID taste pretty rich! I’ve seen snippets of Invasion of the Body Snatchers when the HH was watching (both old and new) and had to leave the room. I also remember being totally freaked out by Jaws (which would probably look like a rubber shark by today’s special-effects standards!)

    I think I feel the same way, now that I’ve tasted it!

    Thanks so much for the tag! I will definitely try to do this one. . . glad you don’t mind if it takes a little while 🙂

    I know how you feel. Still creeps me out!

    I’d guess this is the perfect way to use that molasses!


  • Horror movies aren’t for me either, but this muhammara is right up my alley!!


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