Red Pepper, Parsley, and Walnut Spread

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I recently fell in love with a red pepper dip I tasted at one of my favorite Mediterranean restaurants that tasted like a cross between a traditional Muhammarah and a fresh Mexican salsa.  Honestly--it was fantastic! That place has a little shop in front when you can buy pretty much everything on their menu to take home, so before we left, I bought a small container of the dip for "research purposes."

On the menu, the dip was described as a pepper dip with walnuts and garlic. I knew there was a lot more in there, so I started tasting (aka "researching") and trying to identify all the flavors. I'm letting you know right now that this isn't it. This is a lovely dip that resulted from my various experimentations. It's not the exact one I was hoping to make, but it's so good and so versatile that I had to share it.

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Made with roasted red peppers, onions, walnuts, and a few other good things, this spread is wonderful on warm pita or in a sandwich in place of mayo, but it goes even further than that! You can also use it the way you would any pesto--on pasta, tossed with shrimp before grilling or sauteing, even dolloped onto tomato or lentil soup as a garnish!

The spread keeps well in the fridge for about two weeks (just give it a little whisk before using if it starts to separate), and is a quick way to pack lots of flavor into a weeknight lunch or dinner.

I'm still working on cracking the code behind that other magical dip and will be sure to share it with you as soon as I do, but until then, I'm sure you'll love this one.

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Red Pepper, Parsley, and Walnut Spread

Ingredients
3 red bell peppers, whole (see notes in recipe for substitutions)
1 cup shelled and roasted walnuts
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 half onion, peeled
1 teaspoon Kosher salt (plus more if necessary)
1 bunch Italian flat parsley, rinsed and trimmed of the bottom 2 inches of stem
1 tablespoon smoked spanish paprika
olive oil


Directions
Roast the bell peppers by placing directly over the flame on a gas stove, turning with tongs until blackened all over. (You can also use a broiler or grill; or substitute an equivalent of store-bought roasted red peppers) Place blackened peppers in a paper bag or in a bowl covered with plastic wrap, and let steam and cool for 15 minutes.  Use your hands to peel the peppers (leaving just a bit of the charred skin), also removing the seeds and core.

In the base of a food processor or blender, combine the peeled and seeded roasted peppers, the cup of walnuts, the 3 cloves of garlic, the half onion, salt, parsley, and smoked paprika and puree until smooth. Drizzle in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and puree again. Taste and adjust salt as needed.

Serve immediately as a dip, use as a spread in sandwiches, toss with pasta, etc. Will keep in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.

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