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Deconstructing Dukka

June 9th, 2008 | 3 Comments »

Nuts, seeds…..it isn’t too complicated, but in trying to find out more information about this aromatic and amazing Middle Eastern spice mix (say ‘Doo-kah), I came across more variations on a theme than I ever anticipated. It’s just nuts. And seeds!

But apparently, it’s one of those ‘authentic’ spice blends that varies as much as the fingerprint on the cook who is creating the mix. Use roasted hazelnuts; no use roasted chick peas. Don’t use sunflower seeds…oh wait, this version calls for sunflower seeds. This one requires pumpkin seeds, this one walnuts This one needs a bay leaf! I need thyme!! I need cinnamon!!! I need telicherry peppercorns!!!!

Oooh boy….. I need a drink.

Thankfully, all this clicking around on the web came after I had already made up the recipe from the current issue of Food and Wine magazine. Had I done all this foot work beforehand, I may have just tossed my hands in the air begging for mercy. Cooking, at least in my kitchen, just doesn’t need to be so whittled away like one may peel an onion. I’m all for the philosophy that if it works for you, then that’s the best way to go.

And this recipe worked for me. But then again, I am a nutcase, er, well, I mean….. I really like nuts. To eat. And a recipe with no less than four types of nuts in it deserves a spot in my kitchen. Pistachios, almonds, cashews and hazelnuts are oven-roasted; coriander and cumin seed, along with unsweetened coconut and sesame seeds are lightly toasted in a hot skillet, and the resulting fragrant chaos is pulsed in a food processor to a coarse consistency. Or chunky. Or a powder. Or a paste. According to the endless variations, you can pick your level of nutty destruction, and if you’re one to have texture issues, this is a good thing.

The one thing that all the recipes I came across seem to agree on is that the most common way to eat the delectable mess of nuts is to dip bread into olive oil and then dredge it in the mix. I can vouch for the reliability of this usage; it works really well. And had I not made a delicious Chicken Satay for dinner, with a nice vegetable coucous on the side, I would have been fully satisfied to consume the entire ciabatta loaf dipped in perfect oil and rich with the heady crunch of this blend. Even upon discovering that an error on my part resulted in about 10 times more cumin seeds in my mix than the original recipe called for, it was still wonderful, fragrant, and happily received. I can’t wait to spoon it into my morning yogurt, sprinkle it over a salad, blend it into hot cereal, use it to coat chicken, spoon onto ice cream……..

You see……the resulting possibilities, as I have discovered, are as endless as the recipe variations I found, making it not only delicious, but infinitely versatile as well. And I just love foods like that.

(jump for recipe and notes)

Come in to my kitchen…