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. Itâ€™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,Â CSA orÂ farmersâ€™ 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.Â Garlic or a littleÂ 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 canâ€™t find pomegranate molassesâ€”a thick, tart syrupâ€”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 dâ€™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)
- Â 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 purĂ©e to desired thickness. Add more oil or lemon, to taste.