In the time it took to watch the quickfire challenge on Top Chef, author and Top Chef judge Gail Simmons prepared for us muhammara, a Syrian red pepper and walnut dip. Here’s a spread bursting with sweet, savory, and tart notes; an easy method that belies its showoff-ability. Simmons stopped by The Takeout’s kitchen to demonstrate this dead simple recipe from her debut cookbook, Bringing It Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating. 


Red pepper, pomegranate, and walnut dip

Recipe from Bringing It Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating by Gail Simmons

  • 2 cups small torn pieces rustic whole-wheat bread (about 1 1/2 slices), or you can use 3/4 cups coarse plain breadcrumbs like panko
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 (12 ounces) jar roasted red bell peppers, drained
  • 2 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses (available at Middle Eastern grocers)
  • 1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • Pomegranate seeds for serving (optional)
  • Torn fresh basil or mint for serving (optional)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread the bread pieces on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for two minutes. Add the walnuts and continue toasting until the bread is dry and lightly golden and the nuts are fragrant and lightly toasted, about seven minutes more. Transfer the bread and nuts to a plate and let cool completely.

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Set aside about one tablespoon of the toasted nuts. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the remaining nuts and toasted bread with the red peppers, pomegranate molasses, tomato paste, lemon juice, salt, cumin, and pepper flakes; puree until well combined. With the machine running, add the oil in a slow and steady stream until you have a coarse mix.

Transfer the spread to a serving bowl. To serve, drizzle with additional oil and sprinkled with the reserved nuts, the pomegranate seeds, and basil or mint if using.