Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Dukkah

dukkah
From David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen:

“Americans are known to the French for the frequency with which we utter the phrase ‘Oh my God!’ for anything we’re even remotely excited about. I never really thought about it until I moved abroad, but even if a French person speaks no more than ten words in English, three of them are invariably ‘Oh my God!’ with a pitch-perfect American accent, so there must be some truth to it. 

One thing I’ve never heard anyone say ‘Oh my God!’ about is cauliflower. . . .”

So reads the headnote to Lebovitz’s roasted cauliflower with dukkah and yes, I made it. When you find a motif, you have to run with it, however blah. Roasted cauliflower just keeps popping up.

I hoped last night’s dinner would yield some clarity about My Paris Kitchen -- intense love or solid indifference. It didn’t.

Lebovitz’s cauliflower involves chopping a cauliflower into small florets, roasting them, then topping with dukkah, a Middle Eastern nut and spice powder. I first read about dukkah in Laurie Colwin’s More Home Cooking and knew from her description that I would love it. I wanted to make it. I planned to make it. Twenty years later, I made it. 

Per Lebovitz’s recipe (which doesn’t differ much from Colwin’s), you roast hazelnuts (or almonds), pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, and black pepper.  Mix in some salt. Grind until you have a coarse powder. Done. 

Oh my God. I ate a spoonful of this fabulous mixture as I was cooking dinner, and then another spoonful and then I sprinkled some thickly on a piece of bread. Toasty, spicy, salty, crunchy, and superrich -- but in a sneaky way. The spices and crumbly texture somehow mask the the fact that it’s basically nut butter. When I sat down to dinner I had just eaten the equivalent of a small peanut butter sandwich plus a few spoonfuls of plain peanut butter. 

So I was not in a position to fully appreciate the meal. The cauliflower with dukkah was very tasty, but I didn’t have any appetite for it. Id also made Lebovitz’s pork and chard sausages, a melange of chicken livers, ground pork, and greens that you bake in bacon-draped ovals, like serving-size meatloaves. I didn’t mention the liver part to my family and these were popular -- they tasted like cannelloni filling -- but I could only eat a few bites. In effect, I couldn’t eat a good dinner because one element was so ridiculously good that I stuffed myself before we even sat down. 

You’d think this would redound to Lebovitz’s credit, but does Lebovitz get credit for dukkah? Certainly he gets points for including something as delicious as dukkah in his grab-bag French cookbook and providing such a solid recipe. But he didn’t invent dukkah.  I have a dozen cookbooks with very similar dukkah recipes. 

On the other hand, Bar Tartine contains not a single recipe you’ll ever find anywhere else. Kefir ice cream floats? Carob semifreddo? Even seemingly familiar dishes like Liptauer cheese, beet salad, and lentil soup are full of twists. The book is blazingly original. And that presents its own set of problems.

Tomorrow.

30 comments:

  1. I've only ever eaten Heidi's version of dukkah, which doesn't include pumpkin seeds, so I may give that seed a try the next time I make it. http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/001416.html

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    Replies
    1. Her recipe looks less nutty -- I'm curious to try others now that I've made one. And it contains mint!

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  2. Those sausages sound amazing. I would not disclose the chicken livers either.

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    Replies
    1. They were really good, though maybe a little bit grainy, in hindsight. And soft. Not held together as tightly as most sausages.

      Delete
  3. I've never had dukkah! This sounds so good. I love the integrity of your reviews. Not beholden to the cult of celebrity.

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  4. Sounds like you were cooking hungry, which is almost as dangerous shopping hungry. I just made a side-by-side comparison of cookies to see if my janky homemade vanilla extract (made from used vanilla beans, not fresh) would be as good as store bought. It was perhaps a wee bit better, which was a huge surprise and a relief, as it means I can save money. But now I've stuffed myself with contemplative bites of cookies and am having trouble even thinking of cooking dinner. That cauliflower sounds incredible to me. I want to try it, but I want to try the dukkah by itself even more! Is it powdery? Or more oily, like nut butter?

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    Replies
    1. Never mind. I can see from the picture it is granular and not pasty. I couldn't get the concept of peanut butter out of my mind.

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    2. I can't start cooking when I'm full. That's the worst.
      I'm glad the vanilla tested out! I thought I had a full jar of percolating vanilla in the pantry and took my niece in to show it off to her and it turned out to be a jar of prunes I was soaking for your ice cream and had forgotten about.

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  5. Add pistachios to your dukkah next time. It makes the spice mix more "exotic" and adds a lovely green color.

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    Replies
    1. That's perfect! I don't want to buy pumpkin seeds, so I'll substitute pistachios. I have also wanted to make dukkah after reading about it in Laurie Colwin. Did you see Trader Joe's was selling it in little glass jars? I didn't buy any.

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  6. We tried to make the mozzarella last night, Jennifer, and the mozzarella did not set. The milk came from a local Michigan dairy and is unhomogenized. We used a thermometer. The milk started to separate but never got to the thick curd and watery whey stage.We bought the rennet and citric acid powder from the Cheesemaker, April (2013) and have stored the rennet in the fridge and the citric acid powder in the freezer. Any suggestions? We intend to try again. Best, LFrances

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