To prepare for an upcoming potluck, I made this delicious Walnut Red Pepper Spread, which can also be used as a dip. The recipe is based on the flavors typical of Georgian cuisine (the nation on the Black Sea, not the U.S. state). Similar walnut-pepper combinations are used there to fill long peppers, to sauce roasted chicken, and to top or stuff fried eggplant. It’s a little bit like Spanish romesco sauce. The spread is thoroughly portable (and vegan), with no dairy products or mayonnaise, which risk spoiling on a picnic or traveling to a potluck.
As your garden, CSA or farmers’ market starts giving you shiny fresh peppers, as well as that quickly bolting cilantro, this spread recipe is a novel way to use them. A 12- to 14-ounce jar of roasted red peppers will do in a pinch or in the winter, though, and about 2 cups of my wintered-over, diced peppers from the freezer worked wonderfully.
The recipe is very much open to interpretation. I imagine every Georgian cook has her own version. Garlic or a little red onion seems logical additions, for example. You could increase the heat with more chilies or vary the texture to your own taste. If you can’t find pomegranate molasses—a thick, tart syrup—simmer and reduce pomegranate juice instead. The optional cracker crumbs just give body, not flavor, to the dip and so are not absolutely necessary.
The simplest presentation for the matte-red spread is a round of crackers or triangles of pita, a few olives and some small cubes of feta cheese as hors d’oeuvres. You can also layer it on rough slices of country bread as the foundation of a wonderful sandwich of goat cheese and prosciutto or roasted portabella mushrooms. Last, it makes a simple yet unusual condiment to serve with grilled meats or vegetables.
Yield: about 1 cup
- 3/4 cup walnuts
- 2 large red, bell-type peppers
- 1-2 small hot peppers/chilies
- 1/4 cup cracker crumbs, such as saltines (optional)
- 1 T. lemon juice
- 1 T. pomegranate molasses (see above)
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 2-3 T. fresh cilantro or parsley sprigs
- 1 T. olive oil
Cut open and de-seed bell peppers and hot peppers, taking care to protect your hands. Put all ingredients into a food processor and purée to desired thickness. Add more oil or lemon, to taste.