My youngest brother, Matt, is a cook at Fino. He started as a busboy and has moved up to the daytime grill position. (Go Matt!)
John and I like to go to Fino on date nights. On a recent trip, our waiter suggested that we try the roasted red pepper, walnut, and pomegranate dip. I was suspect, but we caved. And then, I was hooked! It is–at once–tangy, nutty, spicy, and a little sweet. It’s super versatile, too! At Fino, the dip is served with their homemade pita bread, but I ended up spreading the dip on everything … shrimp, pork, potato chips … even ate some with a spoon.
After that dinner, I was intent on making my own version. As it turns out, the spread is a traditional Syrian condiment called “muhumara.” There are lots of variations. Mine is below.
The one ingredient that may throw you off is the pomegranate molasses. It is available at Central Market, but in a pinch, you can use pomegranate juice concentrate (which may be easier to find) or even pomegranate juice (reduce it down over low heat if you have time). For the red peppers, roast your own if you wish, or take a short cut and buy them in a jar. Also, the bread crumbs can be optional; leave them out (as I did below) if you have a guest that is gluten-free.
Love-At-First-Bite Red Pepper & Walnut Dip
Makes about 2 cups
1 1/2 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 cup walnuts, toasted
½ cup fresh bread crumbs, toasted
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon sugar
Generous pinch of red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 10-ounce jar roasted red peppers (drained) or 3 roasted red peppers, peeled and seeded
Extra virgin olive oil
Place walnuts, bread crumbs, red wine vinegar, pomegranate reduction, salt, cumin, paprika, sugar, and red pepper flakes in the bowl of a food processor.
Process until mixture is moist, crumbly, and well combined. Add roasted pepper; process until almost smooth. While processor is running, add olive oil, a few tablespoons at a time, in a slow stream. Continue adding olive oil until you reach the desired consistency.
Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. (The flavors in the spread will mellow with time.) Serve at room temperature with raw veggies, pita bread, or pita chips.
MAKE-AHEAD TIP: Keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.