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I grew up in Watertown, Massachusetts, one of the oldest towns in the United States and home to Eliza Dushku of “Bring It On” fame, Helen Keller, and the third-largest Armenian population in the United States. A pretty unique combination of people, I know.

When I was younger I took for granted that a dozen corners around town had Armenian markets which offered imported spices, olives, dates, prepared Middle Eastern foods like tabbouleh and hummus, and fresh pita bread everyday. After school I would stop by with my mom and pick up some fresh-made baklava, baba ganoush, or chickpea salad as a pre-dinner snack (and we wonder where my love of chickpeas comes from). Kids in my elementary school were largely from immigrant families and spoke Armenian together in the hallways.

When I moved to Wisconsin I realized how unique Watertown is. I craved freshly rolled grape leaves and rich, tahini-laden hummus. I felt homesick for the flavors of a place farther than Massachusetts, and I learned how to create them in my kitchen. Here is a recipe for Muhammara (pronounced mu-HUMM-a-ra), a Syrian recipe which found its way into other Middle Eastern cuisines. This brings me back to the good stuff from Arax Market on Mt. Auburn St.

  • 2 red bell peppers, roasted and peeled
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs or panko, toasted
  • 2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses*
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil

*Pomegranate molasses is an intense, sweet and necessary addition to this dip. It can be purchased at Middle Eastern markets or online. You can also make it at home, here is Alton Brown’s recipe: LINK

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1.Begin by roasting the red peppers on a stove burner (as pictured) or sliced and laid on a sheet tray in the over for 5-10 minutes at 400º. Once roasted, place the hot peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 10 minutes. Remove the pepper and peel the skins (they should slip right off).

2. Combine the peeled peppers and walnuts in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients except the olive oil and pulse until smooth. With the processor running, add the olive oil slowly and blend until the oil is completely incorporated. Serve the dip garnished with additional chopped walnuts, chopped mint leaves, and paprika!


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