Are you familiar with Muhammara, a flavorful Middle Eastern red pepper dip? This concoction is similar but not quite the same. The addition of dates gives it a sweeter note, and the use of pomegranate juice is also a departure from the classic.  I made it for a dinner party we hosted not too long ago, and served it with Ka’kat bread. Perfect partner for the dip.  The recipe comes from Martha Stewart, and contrary to my expectations, there were problems. In fact, it was almost a disaster, but my beloved husband saved the show and thanks to his advice, the dip did not metamorphose into soup. And guess what? This is Paleo-friendly, so if you are into it, feel free to dig in!

Red Pepper Walnut Dip

(from Martha Stewart)

4 pitted dates
3 chopped roasted red peppers
1/2 cup pomegranate juice (use less: see my comments)
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Pomegranate seeds (optional)

Soak dates in hot water until softened, about 10 minutes; drain. Pulse dates, red peppers, pomegranate juice, walnuts, and red-pepper flakes in food processor until smooth. With machine running, slowly add olive oil until thoroughly combined. Season with salt and pepper.

Dip can be stored in refrigerator in an airtight container up to 3 days.

Garnish with pomegranate seeds, if so desired.


to print the recipe, click here


Comments: Don’t let my almost disaster stop you from making this dip, it was delicious!  However, I even left feedback on Martha Stewart’s website stating that there are problems with the recipe as published. No way 1/2 cup of pomegranate juice will work. I actually roasted more bell peppers than the recipe called for, and it was still pretty much a soup once I was done processing it.

In complete despair, I told Phil that we would have to settle for store-bought hummus for our dinner party because the dip was ruined, but he did not even blink: put it in a sieve to drain, it will be alright.  He is simply the most optimistic human being ever, nothing brings him down.  Take golf, for instance. He faces each shot, no matter how tough, with full composure. Moi? I start shaking uncontrollably when my golf ball goes into a bunker (the golf balls I play with have a mind of their own, did you know that?).  In part because I know how many strokes it will take me to get said ball out of there. But, let’s get back to cooking, a nicer subject.

Following the advice of the resident scratch golfer, I placed the dip inside a small colander lined with a coffee filter, and within 30 minutes it had reached a perfect dip consistency.  Tragedy averted! I struck gold in March 07th, 2000.


ONE YEAR AGO: Lemon-Pistachio Loaf

TWO YEARS AGO: Roast Beef French Dip Sandwich with Green Pea Pesto

THREE YEARS AGO: Asparagus Pesto

FOUR YEARS AGO: Chocolate and Chestnut Terrine

FIVE YEARS AGO: Under the spell of lemongrass

SIX YEARS AGO: Greens + Grapefruit + Shrimp = Great Salad!


I am feeling quite generous these days, so you’ll get two recipes in a single post. It turns out they went so well together, that it would be sad to separate them.  The source of inspiration for the chicken was a blog I found not too long ago, and started following right away: The View from Great Island, hosted by Sue. Her photography is beautiful, and I’d be happy sitting at her dinner table anytime! The mashed carrot was in  the latest issue of Fine Cooking magazine  as an option for Thanksgiving side dish. Roasted asparagus rounded our meal quite nicely.

(adapted from The View from the Great Island)

for the chicken
1 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1 tsp salt
4 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
for the glaze
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
juice of 1 lime
2 Tbsp agave nectar
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

To marinate the chicken, put the yogurt, pomegranate juice, salt, and chicken in a large zip lock bag. Massage everything until well combined. Put in the fridge to marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Set the oven to 300 F.  Remove the chicken from the marinade, place the pieces skin side down on a large baking dish, and cover with aluminum foil.  Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour at this low temperature.  Remove the foil, if there is a lot of liquid accumulated in the dish remove most of it and discard.  Turn the pieces skin side up, cover with foil again and bake for another 20 minutes.  At this point, prepare the glaze by combining all ingredients together.   If too thin, gently warm it on a small saucepan to thicken it a little.  Watch it carefully because it can burn due to all the sugar.

Remove the aluminum foil from the baking dish, increase oven temperature to 425 F.  Bake for 15 minutes, once the skin starts to get some color brush the glaze all over the chicken thighs and bake for 10 more minutes or until very dark.  You can also broil the pieces at this point, but pay attention to prevent it from burning.  Serve with lime wedges.


to print the recipe, click here

Carrot Mash1

    (adapted from Fine Cooking magazine)

    2 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
    1 oz. (2 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces
    2 Tbs. almond milk, unsweetened
    2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
    1 tsp dried mint
    1 tsp finely grated orange zest
    Put the carrots in a large saucepan with enough cool water to cover by at least 1 inch. Add 1 tsp. salt and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and cook at a gentle boil until the carrots can be easily pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes.

    Drain well in a colander, letting the steam rise for a few minutes. Meanwhile, heat the butter, almond milk, oil, mint, orange zest, and  1/2 tsp salt in the saucepan over low heat until the butter melts.

    Purée the carrots in a food processor until smooth and then add them to the pan, stirring well to combine.

    Adjust seasoning and serve.


    to print the recipe, click here

    Comments: My main modification of the chicken recipe was to adapt it to my favorite method of cooking chicken thighs: low and slow followed by high and fast.  I like the way the meat gets super tender and the skin super crisp.  You should stop by Sue’s blog and check her version too.  She actually made the glaze from pomegranate juice, reducing it with sugar. Since I had a bottle of pomegranate molasses, I followed a slightly different path.  The full idea is to have a reasonably thick glaze to coat the chicken.


    The carrot mash: my only tweak was to use almond milk instead of heavy cream.  I love almond milk and use it every chance I get.  A lot more orange zest went into the recipe then called for, because the music playing got me carried away with the Microplane. Such a cool gadget!  Phil thought it was slightly too orange-y and not enough carrot-y, but when we had leftovers next day that flavor had mellowed down considerably.  As to a side dish for Thanksgiving, I was a bit shocked by how little puree 2 pounds of carrots produced… If you will be feeding an army of people, be ready to peel a ton of carrots and scale this recipe up by a factor of 3 or 4.  😉  Still, a delicious option, bright color, bright flavor, it will shine on your Thanksgiving table next to that big bird.

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    If you are looking for a dessert that is elegant, feels quite special, but is surprisingly light, you must try this one. I saw it over at Chucrute com Salsicha, hosted by Fer, the Brazilian blogger who lives in California and was my main inspiration to start the Bewitching.  Anyway, after following her blog for so many years, it is clear that when she raves about a recipe, I better get to work. She served this pomegranate gelee’ for her Christmas dinner, and I immediately decided to make it for our New Year’s Eve dessert, closing the year in a very festive mood! 😉


    (adapted from Deborah Madison, via Culinate) 

    for the gelee:
    2 cups pure pomegranate juice
    1 package gelatin
    1 Tbsp sugar
    2 tsp rose-water

    for  the yogurt cream:
    2 Tbsp milk
    small pinch of saffron threads
    ½ cup Greek-yogurt
    1 Tbsp honey

    for garnish:
    2 Tbs pistachio nuts, finely chopped
    fresh pomegranate seeds

    Pour ½ cup of the pomegranate juice into a bowl, sprinkle the gelatin on top, and let stand for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat half the remaining juice (¾ cup) just to the boiling point. Stir it into the gelatin, add the sugar, and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Gradually stir in the rest of the juice, then add the orange-flower water. Divide among 4 to 6 small glasses and refrigerate until set, allowing at least 6 hours or overnight.

    Lightly heat the milk with the saffron threads and let cool. Stir the yogurt and honey together. Blend the saffron-milk mixture into the yogurt. Refrigerate until needed.

    To serve, spoon the yogurt cream over each glass of pomegranate jelly. Garnish with the pistachio nuts and pomegranate seeds.


    to print the recipe, click here

    Comments:  One of the things I love the most about Fer, is that she is not afraid of improvisation in the kitchen.  If she doesn’t have an ingredient, she comes up with a substitution, and moves on, always with a happy ending!  She is also a wizard with her ice cream machine, often designing her own recipes,  all quite creative and unique. This dessert gave me opportunity to improvise too:  it originally called for orange flower water, which I did not have, and also had no idea where to get it in town.  Plus, there’s no way this Brazilian would drive around the Little Apple with snow everywhere.

    I had a bottle of rose-water, acquired months ago, and decided to try it in this recipe. It seemed to me that pomegranate and rose-water could not end in litigious divorce.   To be on the safe side, I reduced the amount, using one teaspoon instead of two.  Worked like a charm!  If you don’t divulge what’s in the gelee, your guests won’t be able to detect the rose flavor, but once you know it’s there, the palate gets a subtle awareness of it, quite wonderful…

    I used non-fat yogurt because again that’s what I had in the house, but go full-fat if you prefer.  This dessert had everything I enjoy: a light and refreshing feel, a luscious creamy topping, and the crunch of pistachios mixed with the slightly softer crunch of the pomegranate seeds.   Heaven, my friends, heaven!

    Fer, thanks for another gem of a recipe, this one will be on our menu again and again!

    ONE YEAR AGO: My First Award!

    TWO YEARS AGO: A Message from WordPress

    THREE YEARS AGO: Turkish Chicken Kebabs


    This recipe, from a recent compilation in Fine Cooking called “One Pot Meals”, went from the page to a pot in the blink of an eye.  It called for all kinds of goodies that I love: chicken, root veggies, pomegranate and the perfect spices to tie them together.  The glaze roasted into a sexy ruby color, and the skin of the chicken will make anyone smile.  So, why is it a work in progress, you might ask?   Read on….

    (adapted from Fine Cooking magazine)

    1 large orange, zested and juiced
    1 cup pomegranate juice
    1-1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
    1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
    Freshly ground black pepper
    6 tsp. olive oil
    Kosher salt
    3/4 cup chicken broth
    2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
    2 medium parsnips, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
    2 leeks, white part only, cut in 1/4 inch slices
    4-lb. chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces
    1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

    Heat the oven to 400°F.

    In a medium saucepan, Combine the orange juice and pomegranate juice in a saucepan, bring to a boil and reduce it to 1/4 cup (about 20 minutes). Add half of the thyme (eye balling is fine), all the cinnamon, and black pepper (about 1/4 tsp or according to your taste). Divide the mixture between two small bowls. To one bowl add 2 tsp. of the oil and 1/2 tsp. salt. To the other add the chicken broth, all but 1 tsp. of the orange zest, and 1/4 tsp. salt.

    Scatter the sweet potatoes, parsnips, and leeks over the bottom of a dish that measures about 10 x 15 x 2 inches. Toss with the remaining 4 tsp. of oil and the rest of the thyme.  Arrange the chicken pieces, skin side up, on top of the vegetables and brush with all of the juice-oil mixture. Roast for 30 minutes.

    Remove the pan from the oven and reduce the temperature to 375°F. Pour the reduced pomegranate-chicken broth mixture around the chicken pieces and scatter the walnuts around them.  Return the pan to the oven and roast until the vegetables are tender and an instant-read thermometer registers 165°F in several pieces of chicken, 20 to 30 minutes.

    Transfer the chicken to a serving dish.  Remove the veggies and walnuts with a slotted spoon, season them lightly with salt, sprinkle the remaining orange zest all over the meat and veggies. Pour the liquid from the roasting pan in a pyrex type container, remove as much fat as possible.  Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper and pour into a pitcher to serve with the food.


    to print the recipe, click here

    Comments:  Make sure you use pure pomegranate juice (yes, it is expensive compared to blends, but  worth it in this case, because you will concentrate it quite a bit).  I’d love to give this recipe two thumbs all the way up, but it had some problems.  Many of the pieces of sweet potatoes and parsnips were not completely cooked: their centers were still hard.  I tested some with a fork before removing from the oven, but as Murphy’s Law would have it, those were perfect… (sigh).  Next time I’ll cover the dish with foil during the first 30 minutes, then pour the liquid all over it and roast it uncovered, perhaps adding a little more water if the veggies dry up during the final roasting.  I suspect that with this minor change it will be a winner.

    One pot meals are such life-savers for a busy cook, and this recipe, apart from reducing the pomegranate/orange juice, doesn’t require much work. Even better, the reduction could be made a couple of days in advance.  With a nice loaf of bread or a green salad, dinner is ready!

    ONE YEAR AGO: A Message from WordPress

    TWO YEARS AGO: Turkish Chicken Kebabs

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