Dips are awesome, so says my inner child who never grows out of the fun part of eating. The interactive part is obviously the draw. Line up a selection of dips and a selection of dip-delivery-options, the exponential taste combinations make me smile with glee. As much as I try to focus on food that are anti-inflammatory, I feel the restriction of avoiding bread, cracker, flatbread, cream cheese, sour cream, yogurt, tofu, and beans. How would I bind the dip? What am I going to dip with?!
I revisited some of my old recipes and it dawned on me how muhammara perfectly fits into my current preference for eating. This spicy sweet dip is packed with roasted red pepper, walnuts, Aleppo pepper flakes, smoked paprika, and garlic. The touch of pomegranate molasses adds a signature sweet tart taste to complement the heat. I reworked my previous version to make it gluten free and adjusted the ingredients slightly to make it more anti-inflammatory friendly.
When I looked at the fiery shade of red of my tub of muhammara, I was reminded of shrimp cocktail. That was the inspiration behind my platter of shrimp and cucumber. Like the classic cocktail sauce, my dip was a complex mix of sweet, tart, and spicy. Except it was much more than a condiment. It was the star of the show. I greedily loaded each shrimp with as much dip as it could possibly hold.
About the shrimp. In an ideal world, I would buy feisty living shrimps and steam them to preserve as much flavour as I can. The reality is I am a landlubber in Toronto and most shrimps come from the freezer chest at the supermarket. Since the muhammara is so punchy, there is nothing wrong with taking the easy route and defrosting some cooked shrimp. However, if you want to take a step up, you can follow what I do. I buy shell-on frozen shrimps and defrost them overnight in the fridge. Then I poach the shrimps in an aromatic broth infused with gingerroot, green onion, black peppercorn, and bay leaf. Once cooled and peeled, I store them in the fridge until serving time. This simple step makes the shrimps taste so much better.
Shrimp Cocktail with Muhammara
serves 4 as appetizer
this recipe yields about 2 cups of dip which is more than enough. Extra can be frozen in airtight containers.
- 600mL jar of roasted red pepper, drained (about 375g net weight)
- 2 big cloves of garlic
- 4 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3/4 teaspoon smoked sea salt (salish) or fine sea salt
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
- 1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper flakes or red pepper flakes
- 100g toasted walnuts
- 600g shell-on headless frozen shrimp, defrosted
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 inch piece of gingerroot, cut into thin coins
- 1 green onion
- 4 black peppercorns
- 1 small bay leaf
- 1 English cucumber, cut into batons
- To make muhammara, place roasted red pepper, garlic, pomegranate molasses, olive oil, tomato paste, 3/4 teaspoons smoked sea salt, cumin, cinnamon, smoked paprika, and Aleppo pepper flakes in the bowl of a food processor. Blitz until smooth. Add walnut and pulse until you have a thick paste. Store in an airtight container in the fridge, preferably overnight, for flavours to meld.
- To poach shrimp, fill a small saucepan half way with water and bring to boil. Add 1 teaspoon sea salt, gingerroot, green onion, black peppercorns, and bay leaf to the pot. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Bring it back to boil and add shrimps. Cover with lid and cook for 2-3 minutes until cooked. Drain the shrimps and peel when cool enough to handle. You can reserve the poaching liquid for making soup. Chill in fridge until ready to serve.
- When you’re ready to serve, set out shrimps, cucumbers, and muhammara on a platter. A glass of chilled white wine is not mandatory but very nice nonetheless.