In the moment
I have a muhammara recipe bookmarked from a favorite cookbook and with a big bowlful of the last of the season’s peppers in varying shades of red, orange, and gold, all streaked through with green, I decide to make up a batch. In the last minute as I’m setting whole peppers in the pan to roast, I remember I have another muhammara recipe from a separate cookbook which I loved the last I made it. I double my peppers on the pan and make them both.
In the food processor, the first batch turns a lovely golden hue, subtly sweet from pomegranate molasses, but a little lemony to my taste. The second, the one I had loved before, is date-sweetened and much too sweet by comparison. The lemon is gone though and the paprika addition nicer.
In a dash of inspiration I decide to combine the two. I can’t stop licking the spoon and it’s not just that I’m performing this endeavor the morning after a marathon-season long run.
Muhammara, if you haven’t tried it, is the most delicious thing you’ll have all season. Traditionally a Syrian roasted pepper, walnut and pomegranate relish/dip for bread or meat, I next whim my way into pureeing half a batch into cooked white beans. When I want beans and rice to go down a treat, I take 30 seconds and puree the former in with a special sauce, and there’s nary a complaint of same old same. This is definitely what happens with the muhammara.
sliding into the intuitive of it.
Next I bloom some wild rice. We’re into sprouting week in my raw foods cooking lab for my nutrition program, and though I’m arguably at the medium-experience level of sprouting as far as the norm of us goes, I’m learning new things. Sprouted wild rice is a dream that opens up into fat, fluffy grains, downright pillowy compared to standard wild rice. The extra few hours of hands-off sprouting makes all their nutrients more usable too, a practice I know I can stand to incorporate as much as possible.
After sprouting, I drain and rinse the rice and pour it back into my steaming pot, adding water afresh and steaming it for a further 40 minutes. It doesn’t need this extra step since we just sprouted, but on this day I’m craving warm and I have a feeling about this. I slide a handful of washed clean beets from the garden into foil and pop them in the oven.
I look in the fridge, grab the quick-pickle jar I emptied of onions but left the vinegar from a week ago, reserved for just such a day. I grab half an onion, slice it thin, and set it in the vinegar to marinate. William texts he’s on his way home. As he walks in the door, I’m later than usual, less rushing him as normal, and more like sliding into the intuitive of this dinner project.
Ten minutes, I say.
I’m sliding the rice off the heat, pulling the beets and slicing thin. Into the wild rice, going crimson by degrees as the steam rises. Cumin, a few sprigs off the cilantro that is almost ready for the compost, the slices of quick-pickled onion drained and spooned in. Salt. A couple dashes pepper. A little more vinegar. More salt, this time reaching into the back of the pantry for that crumpled bag of black-truffle salt, a fortune for such a small homely package. A dash is enough. A taste, and it’s done.
On the plates
A big spoonful of muhammara bean puree, moon-swiped over the half in a chef’s half pirouette and then heaps of the rice spooned atop.
If this is weeknight cooking, it’s the kind we shouldn’t be getting used to. A result of what happens when I’m sliding into the intuitive of the moment, letting my flavor memories and creative tendency take over. In the kitchen and on our plates, the experience is pure magic.
Sprouted Wild Rice + Beet Salad
1 cup wild rice
5 beets, tops and bottoms removed
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
1/2 an onion, quick-pickled
1/2 cup minced cilantro
1/2 tsp. sea salt
black-truffle salt (optional but adds subtle depth), to taste
- To sprout the rice, start early in the day of cooking by measuring out 1 cup of wild rice, rinse well, and then soak in a 1 quart jar with 2 cups water in a warm oven on the lowest setting for about 6 hours. It will be ready when it has bloomed and the grains have become fluffy and open. Then, to cook, rinse and drain again, and bring to a boil in a small pot along with 1 1/2 cups water. Turn down, cover and steam for about 40 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.
- While the rice is cooking, roast the beets by wrapping them in foil, and placing in the oven for about 40 minutes. They will be ready when they can slice through easily with a knife or fork.
- To prepare the salad, slice the beets thinly and add, along with the quick-pickled onions, cumin, cilantro, and vinegar, salt(s), and pepper to taste.
Muhammara, makes about 1 1/2 cups
9 oz. / 250 g roasted red or orange peppers
3/4 cup / 3 oz. / 75 g toasted walnuts
2 garlic cloves
2 Tbs. white wine vinegar
4 tsp. / 20 ml pomegranate molasses
3 Tbs. / 45 ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. paprika (smoked or regular)
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. sea salt
- In a food processor, puree all the ingredients and then taste, and adjust seasonings. Add additional salt and pepper as needed.
Muhammara Bean Puree
half batch Muhammara
1 1/2 cups cooked white beans or 1 can, drained and rinsed
- To make the puree, leave half the muhammara in the processor, reserving the other half for another use. Add in the white beans and puree until smooth. Spoon into a small dish and heat gently on the stove or in the microwave to serve.