Winter cooking is often pantry cooking. When the rain is coming down at a 45° angle, the last thing most of us want to do is brave the elements to make a grocery run.
It’s handy to have a stash of recipes that rely on what you already have in the cupboard – and conversely, to stock your cupboard with great ingredients you can use whenever the spirit strikes. It’s especially great if those recipes aren’t last resorts, but lead to dishes that you find cozy and comforting and help you combat the stormy weather outside.
We’re obviously big fans of cooking with the seasons, using whatever is just fresh and coming ripe. But – even in the Mediterranean – there’s not always something to be harvested. Cooking healthy food made from the locally-sourced dry and canned goods is a great alternative.
In the hopes of fighting our own winter blahs, we thought it would be fun to try and work through some of the classic recipes in the canon of Middle Eastern cooking – the old standbys and familiar dishes that are especially soothing when you’re spending the weekend curled up inside.
Now, we’re not claiming that we’ll be able to reproduce your favourite hummus perfectly – that kind of standard is entirely beyond us. There are as many versions of hummus as there are people that make it, after all. If your grandmother has passed her secrets on to you, consider yourself blessed. (And share in the comments!) If you’re still trying to muddle your way through, however, consider these your yummy, customizable starting-points.
First up, muhammara: the garlicky, earthy, addictive red pepper and walnut spread that originally hails, so we understand, from Aleppo, Syria.
- 2 slices of bread (can be stale, whole wheat is good), toasted
- 4 whole roasted red peppers (preferably packed in oil), coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted lightly and chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, mashed with 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Place the toasted bread in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it is reduced to fine breadcrumbs.
Add in all the remaining ingredients except the oil and process until the mixture is uniform and the ingredients are fully incorporated. With the motor running, add the oil gradually; continue blending until the dip reaches your preferred consistency – anywhere from smooth to slightly chunky.
Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt if necessary and a bit more pomegranate syrup if you’d like more sourness.
Transfer the muhammara to a bowl and serve with pita triangles and veggies for dipping.
Don’t stop cooking here!