It’s time to discuss dukkah, a crunchy, toasty, spicy mixture that can actually change the way you eat. It’s inspired by the cuisines and eating habits of the Middle Eastern, where nuts are used everywhere, at all times, in everything.

I first began hearing about dukkah from my cooking students; then I was in Portland, Oregon at the Portland Farmers’ Market www.portlandfarmersmarket.org and I ran across the Oregon Dukkah company that makes a variety of Dukkah mixtures, mostly based on Oregon hazelnuts.

Dukkah for dipping
Dukkah for dipping

The more I learned, the more I wanted to make my own so I did, and it’s in Nuts in the Kitchen. When I served my first batch at a party, my friend Ziad Hatahet almost started screaming with pleasure. “I grew up eating this, for breakfast every morning, how do you know about it?” he asked me with his Syrian-inflected French. I told him. He laughed and laughed at the notion that I, an American, made the first Dukkah he’s tasted since he fled Syria for France twenty years ago.

Since the day I made that first batch, Dukkah is always in my kitchen. I sprinkle it on fish, on grilled meat, on steamed vegetables, in salad. I serve it with freshly baked bread and a bowl of extra-virgin olive oil, for dipping. I vary the nuts and the herbs and spices so that it is never quite the same. That way, when friends have it they’re always surprised, and I am too – I simply never tire of it. Since it’s full of nutrients, it’s also responsible for me feeling virtuous. There is, quite simple, everything right about Dukkah.

I’m not going to give you the recipe here, since it’s in the book. Suffice it to say that nuts are toasted and mixed with herbs and spices, then ground. It’s best when made in small amounts, then it’s always fresh. And once it’s on hand it can be used as above. I also knead it into bread dough, fold it into biscuits, put it under the skin of a chicken before I roast it. Very versatile, very flavorful, very easy to use, Dukkah is one of my most exciting finds.

While almonds and hazelnuts are, I think, best in Dukkah, you can use nuts at your disposal, adding seeds as well. Once you’ve got my book in your hands and have the recipe therein you can adapt and make it your own.

I wish you success.

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