One of the best destinations for a foodie tourist visiting San Francisco, in my opinion, is Haig’s Delicacies. Founded in 1956 by an Armenian who immigrated to the U.S. from Turkey, the small family-owned shop is a prized treasure of bustling Clement Street—an off-the-path foodie neighborhood that’s really worth exploring. Haig’s carries thousands of edibles from all over the world—their spices, teas, candies, chutneys, spreads, and sauces make great gifts. They also offer a sit-down menu of delights like falafel, lahmajoun, fresh feta, incomparable hummus, and Armenian sausage sandwiches. (Perfect for breakfast, if you’re not totally egg-focused.)
It was at Haig’s that I first learned about muhammara—a traditional Syrian dip made with red peppers, walnuts, breadcrumbs, and olive oil. Versions vary, but often also include garlic, lemon juice, and pomegranate molasses. I live only two blocks from Haig’s, so there’s no reason that I needed to figure out how to make muhammara myself. After all, theirs is a family recipe passed down for generations and needs no improvement. Still, I thought it would be fun to try, and to share this recipe with those of you who don’t live a dolma’s throw from a renowned Mediterranean deli (once frequented by James Beard!).
Pomegranate molasses, by the way, is a thick, tart syrup that can be found at European markets or purchased online. It lasts for ages in the fridge even after the bottle’s been opened, and can be used in all kinds of Middle Eastern dishes—so the remainder won’t go to waste. As an alternate option, I experimented with using fresh pomegranate seeds instead of molasses in one of my batches. It was still delicious—just slightly lacked that rich, tart flavor the molasses adds. Honestly, you could even leave the pomegranate factor out altogether and the result would still be wonderful, so don’t stress if buying the molasses is a hassle and fresh poms are out of season.
Makes 1½ cups.
- 1 large clove garlic, peeled
- 1 cup walnut halves, lightly toasted
- 7-ounce jar (dry weight) roasted red bell pepper*
- ⅔ cup breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice (from about 1 lemon)
- 2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses**
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ - ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- In a food processor, pulse the garlic and walnuts until both are well-chopped.
- Add roasted peppers, breadcrumbs, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, oil, salt, cumin, and pepper flakes. Pulse until smooth.
- Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.
- Serve with pita bread, crackers, or vegetables.