Oct 28, 2012

Nutty, Spicey Dukkah

Umami has a mild but lasting aftertaste difficult to describe. It induces salivation and a sensation of furriness on the tongue, stimulating the throat, the roof and the back of the mouth.  —Yamaguchi S (1998). (via Wikipedia)
I've learned a lot from David Garrigues' videos, not just about Ashtanga and yogic philosophy, but also about food. His video on brown rice and the salt-sesame mixture called Gomasio changed my outlook on simple rice & veggie meals, super helpful for this fledgling vegetarian. Since then, I've discovered another dry, nutty condiment to sprinkle on all kinds of vegetarian staples—from brown rice, to bread with oil, to fried potatoes (especially with caramelized onions—yum), to steamed squash, and even plain old slices of avocado. It's called Dukkah—an Egyptian invention, apparently sold on the streets of Cairo. Like Gomasio, Dukkah really ups the Umami quotient of otherwise bland or non-complex foods (like brown rice, etc...), and helps assuage my longing for the kind of intensely savory flavors that are so easy to come by in a meat-inclusive diet, but much rarer in a vegetable-based one.

This recipe is inspired by the one I found on Heidi Swensen's 101 Cookbooks. It uses all the same ingredients (except she also uses a bit of dried mint), only in different proportions.

DUKKAH

1. cup hazelnuts
1/4 cup coriander
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoon salt

The ideal texture for the final mix ranges from a rough powder to outright chunks. Putting everything at once into a food processor would create problems because the seeds are harder than the nuts and by the time the seeds were adequately ground, the nuts would be too fine. So I hand grind the coriander, peppercorns, fennel seeds, and cumin seeds (these last I always pan roast before grinding—worth the effort) using a mortar and pestle. I'm not super ferocious about it, however, and only manage to crack most of the larger seeds in half or quarters. But they're small enough so that I can then throw them all into the food processor along with the nuts so that they can break down a touch more. The nuts take less than a minute to get nicely, unevenly chopped—just enough time to break down the seeds a tad more. It all works out in the end, especially if you don't mind fairly large bits of black pepper now and then. Keeps things interesting.
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