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Walnut-pomegranate Dip or Sauce

adapted from Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean by Paula Wolfert
I start with toasted walnuts, which make the sauce more flavorful and richer. If you use this as a dip, extra garlic and pepper can be nice, but go easy on the salt if salty chips or crackers will be dipped; if using as a sauce over steamed vegetables and pasta, you might increase the salt but decrease the pepper.  It will happily go either way.

1 1/2 cups toasted walnuts (about 6 ounces)
1-3 teaspoons paprika
2-4 garlic cloves (to taste)
1-2 teaspoons coriander, ground
1 1/2 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1/2 cup hot water
pinch saffron
pinch of salt

cayenne pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves

In the food processor, blend the walnuts, paprika, garlic, coriander, pomegranate molasses, water, saffron, and salt together until smooth.  Add more water if necessary for a more liquid sauce.  Stir in the cilantro.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  It can be served immediately, but it will keep several days if refrigerated or months in the freezer.

Notes:  I like to toast my walnuts in advance for best flavor.  15 minutes at 350 or so should do it, so they're golden and nutty but not burnt.  I also "roast" the garlic by zapping briefly in the microwave before peeling the cloves. 

Pomegranate molasses is available in middle eastern groceries, and can often be found in regular supermarkets if they have a small section for middle eastern foods.  You could probably substitute some lemon juice if you can't find the real thing.

The saffron is important for the appearance of the sauce--otherwise the acid in the pomegranate turns the walnuts pink--as well as for flavor.  But if you don't have it, garlic, walnuts, coriander and pomegranate molasses are marvelous nevertheless.   Reportedly safflower petals are used as a traditional substitute if saffron is unavailable.  

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