Sue came to town today, which meant, obviously, that we needed to go out and eat. I think that’s the only way to have a productive meeting without distraction – in boardroom A.
Everything I’ve had at Aida’s has been fantastic, but the only absolute must have is the muhammara – a Syrian roasted red pepper and walnut dip that I still have been unable to recreate in my own kitchen. I ask for their recipe, nicely, as do others, but they (understandably) turn me down. The other option is to be told and then taken out back and shot. I’m thinking about it.
Here’s the one I used to make; I admit I’ve been pouty about it and haven’t bothered for a few years, opting instead to use it as an excuse to visit Aida’s. Sue suggested there might be a dribble of melted butter in their version – worth a try! Tangy-sour pomegranate molasses is easy to find these days at Mediterranean markets as well as in gourmet shops. There’s also a muhammara recipe that looks worth a try at Chocolate & Zucchini.
1 cup walnuts, toasted and finely chopped
3 roasted red peppers
1-2 small hot red peppers, roasted along with the bell peppers, or a pinch of dried red pepper flakes
2-4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 cup olive oil (or half oil, half melted butter?)
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the walnuts, roasted peppers, hot peppers, garlic, pomegranate molasses and cumin until well blended and smooth.
With the motor running, slowly pour the olive oil through the feed tube until the mixture is smooth and creamy. If it’s too thick, add a few spoonfuls of water. To serve, spread the muhammara in a bowl, top with a walnut half and drizzle with a little extra olive oil if you like. Serve with fresh pitas or pita chips.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
The shredded lemon chicken was drizzled with creamy tahini sauce and served with a fattoush salad (romaine lettuce, tomatoes and toasted pita with an oregano-spiked vinaigrette) and baba ghanouj – another one of my favourite dips. Sadly this is again not Aida’s, but it’s all I can offer:
Be warned – you will have garlic breath.
2 medium eggplants
1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. salt, or to taste
a drizzle of olive oil (optional)
Preheat oven to 475F. Place whole eggplants on a baking dish and roast, turning once or twice, for 45 minutes to an hour, until skin is charred and eggplant is soft. Set aside until they are cool enough to handle.
Scoop the flesh out of the eggplant and roughly mash with a fork. Stir in tahini, garlic, lemon juice and salt. Leave it coarse or whiz it in the food processor until as smooth as you like. If necessary, thin with a little olive oil, extra lemon juice or water.
Transfer to a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with pita chips, veggies or grilled bread. Serves 8.
Per serving: 74 calories, 3.8 g total fat (0.5 g saturated fat, 1.4 g monounsaturated fat, 1.7 g polyunsaturated fat), 2.5 g protein, 9.4 g carbohydrate, 0 mg cholesterol, 0.7 g fiber. 42% calories from fat.
We had to share a grilled (medjool and feta) cheese, just because Sue had never tried one. (This is what I bring home for Mike anytime I go to Aida’s without him.) It’s made with salty, stringy cheese I’m stuck on the name of (I assumed medjool might refer to the cheese as well, since I’ve never detected dates in it – in Arabic medjool means ‘unknown’, so it would apply in this case) and feta. They throw in some finely chopped tomato and Kalamata olives, and I think some bits of green onion, but I’m really only in it for the cheese. It’s all grilled until melty in a crispy pita. This is my usual – muhammara and grilled cheese with a side of roasted lemon potatoes and fattoush. Yum.