I’ve always been a very obedient student. When I took on this journey to learn all about Middle Eastern food, I knew I’d follow directions. Unlike everything else that I ever cook–ever–I’ve been going by recipes and formulas from Yotam Ottolenghi, Claudia Roden, Louisa Shafia so far. You can’t break the rules ’til you know them.
Yet I believe that cooking, like life, is about a billion times more fun when you get to break rules. Small rebellions. And dukkah, though a new-to-me Middle Eastern condiment, asks for you to break the mold and make the mixture your own from the moment you open any recipe, because customizing to your tastes is part of the recipe. Dukkah suits me.
The mix contains nuts and seeds, toasted until fragrant and then ground together in a food processor or mortar and pestle. I first ate, then made, Ana Sortun’s version from her cookbook, Spice. I love the crunchiness. It’s addictive.
Here’s where the rebellion part comes in: depending on desires, your dukkah could lean towards the rich (more hazelnuts, the addition of pistachios) or the spicy (a hint of chili flakes). You make it your own, subtly, and it repays you by becoming your special sauce, a source of oohs and aahs and more cooking energy. You can own your dukkah, give write down the recipe when people ask.
In my version, I remain firmly in the coriander camp, which I recommend because toasted whole coriander is flowery and delicious beyond what you’d expect from the ground stuff.
Though I’ve been sprinkling dukkah on salads and grains as well, the way many Middle Easterners use the stuff is like this: grab a pice of bread, dip it in olive oil, dip it in dukkah. This makes an awesome appetizer and great afternoon snack.
This sponsored post is part of an ongoing collaboration with Sargento, called Flavor Journey. Throughout the year, with the support of Sargento, I’m exploring Middle Eastern cuisine–at home, in Brooklyn, at cooking classes, and wherever the flavors may take me. You can see the whole series here. Sponsored posts let me do some of my best work on this blog, and I only ever work with brands whose values and products mesh with the content I love to produce for you. Here’s my affiliate disclosure.
Makes about 2 cups
Adapted from Claudia Roden
1/2 cup whole coriander seeds
1/3 cup hazelnuts
1/4 cup whole cumin seeds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the coriander, hazelnuts, cumin, and sesame seeds on separate baking pans. Toast until each is golden and fragrant, coriander for about 5 minutes, sesame seeds for about 7, cumin for about 10, hazelnuts for about 10. Check frequently so nothing burns.
Let the nuts and seeds cool so you can handle them. Remove the skins from the hazelnuts (they should be dry and brittle and come off easily when you rub them).
Place everything in a mini food processor. Pulse for a minute or two to grind everything–you don’t want any whole seeds but you don’t want a powder either.
Transfer to a bowl or jar. This keeps in the fridge for weeks. To serve with bread and olive oil, transfer a few spoonfuls to a shallow bowl. Set it beside a second bowl of olive oil and serve with toasted pita or other good bread, dipping first in the oil, then in the dukkah.