Juicy Pomegranate in Muhammara from Syria, Recipe from Salsas of the World

And the cookbooks keep landing on my desk, almost one a day.

Thankfully my pre-publication picks were varied in their themes and horizons.

One of the most recent arrivals is Salsas of the World (Gibbs Smith, October 2011) by Mark Miller with Robert Quintana.

The book lives up to its title and spans the globe.

My first pick is a recipe from Syria which requires juicy pomegranate seeds.

Muhammara / Syria

In Istanbul around late October and early November, the city is invaded by pomegranates. The streets are lined with pomegranate juice stands where you can have a large glass freshly pressed in front of you by those old hand aluminum bar presses that you used to see in French zinc bars. The scarlet juice revives you—it’s just the right balance of sweet and sour. Some of the stands pile the pomegranates up almost five feet high. The vendors cut them in half so you can see the fruits pregnant with huge, swollen, juicy seeds. There are thousands of pomegranates everywhere; you cannot escape them. They turn up in pastries, in salads, on top of yogurt and whole roasted fish . . . and then they disappear for another year.

4 red bell peppers

3 Fresno chiles

3/4 cup walnuts

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 cup diced white onion (1⁄4-inch pieces) 1/2 cup olive oil

Seeds from 1 pomegranate (about 1 cup)

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons breadcrumbs

4 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 pomegranate, juiced*


Preheat oven to 475 degrees F with the broiler unit turned on and place a rack just above the center of the oven. Roast the bell peppers and Fresnos for 12 minutes, turning to blister the skins. Place them in a plastic bag to steam. When cool, peel, and deseed. Reserve 1 bell pepper and dice the rest in 1/8-inch pieces. Reserve 1 Fresno and dice the rest in 1/8-inch pieces.

Turn the oven down to 300 degrees F and toast the walnuts and cumin seeds for 10 minutes; reserve. Sauté the onion in 1/2 cup olive oil until golden brown.

In a food processor, place the whole bell pepper, whole Fresno, walnuts, cumin, onion, 1/4 cup olive oil, breadcrumbs, pomegranate molasses, and salt. Puree. Fold in the diced bell pepper, diced Fresno, pomegranate seeds, and pomegranate juice.

Yield 3 cups.

Serves 6

Heat Level 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

*To juice a pomegranate, gently push the skin in to the center until it yields to the touch, being careful not to break the skin. Repeat by working around the fruit. When completely soft, use a paring knife and make an incision so that the juice can flow out.

(* Recipe from Salsas of the World by Mark Miller with Robert Quintana, published by Gibbs Smith, October 1, 2011, photos by Jon Edwards, reproduced by permission of publisher)

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