by Sean Keeley, LLCC culinary specialist
As the markets start to fill up with the season’s abundance of produce, I always search for new methods or flavors to add to these fresh ingredients. Mediterranean cuisine is not only healthy, but rich in flavors. The most popular menus often default to Italian or Greek fare. North Africa is also part of the Mediterranean and does not often come to mind when creating menus. If you would like to try some new, bold flavors this summer, then I’d like to share a couple of recipes with you. I think you will find these curiously addicting and want to try them on everything.
The first one is dukkah (pronounced DOO-kah) which is a blend of spices, seeds and nuts and a very bold flavor. Dukkah is the Egyptian Arabic word meaning “to crush” or “to pound” as all the ingredients are combined with a mortar and pestle, or can be mixed in a food processor to a very course powder. Strong flavors of cumin, cinnamon, roasted nuts and seeds bring a great texture and flavors to a variety of dishes. Traditionally flatbread, or naan, was dipped into olive oil and then dipped into this spice blend. It is also amazing in salad, over grilled or steamed vegetables or even sprinkled on a plate as garnish. Try it on your favorite hummus!
The second is my new favorite. I have been putting it on every savory dish, and it has become my go-to sauce. Harissa (pronounced hah-REE-sah) is a rich chili paste that has a beautiful, brick-red color and looks very appealing on all types of dishes. This is the main condiment of Tunisia and is served most often with soup, couscous and shawarma (the meat that is in a gyro), but it is great on everything! It can be used as a sauce, seasoning or marinade. As with any recipe, each region and each family has their own version. These are the recipes I use. If you like to heat things up, add some crushed red pepper to each recipe, or try replacing an ingredient or two with one of your favorite ingredients.
*5 ounces macadamia nuts – lightly roasted
*3.5 ounces almonds, roasted
*2 ounces sesame seeds – lightly toasted
*2 teaspoons chia seed
*2 teaspoons turmeric, ground
*1 big pinch saffron (optional but delicious) – crushed
*1 teaspoon cumin – ground
*1 teaspoon black pepper – ground
*1/2 teaspoon sea salt
*1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
*1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Chop the macadamia nuts and almonds until ground – you can leave a few chunky bits in there for a little texture.
Combine macadamia nuts and almond with the sesame seeds, chia seed, ground turmeric, crushed saffron, cumin powder, black pepper, sea salt, cinnamon and ginger.
Mix the dukkah ingredients well and taste – adjust if necessary to your palate.
Store in a glass jar in the fridge.
*1 red pepper
*1/2 tsp coriander seeds
*1/2 tsp cumin seeds
*1/2 tsp caraway seeds
*1 1/2 TBS olive oil
*1 small red onion, coarsely chopped (scant 2/3 cup)
*3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
*3 hot red chilies, seeded and coarsely chopped
*1 1/2 tsp tomato paste
*2 TBS freshly squeezed lemon juice (or ¼ minced, cured lemon)
*1/2 tsp salt
Place the pepper under a very hot broiler, turning occasionally for about 25 minutes, until blackened on the outside and completely soft. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to cool. Peel the pepper and discard its skin and seeds.
Place a dry frying pan over low heat and lightly toast the coriander, cumin and caraway seeds for 2 minutes. Remove them to a mortar and use a pestle to grind to a powder.
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat, and fry the onion, garlic and chilies for 10 to 12 minutes, until a dark smoky color and almost caramelized.
Now use a blender or a food processor to blitz together all of the paste ingredients until smooth, adding a little more oil if needed. It should be the consistency somewhere between ketchup and heavy mayonnaise.
Store in a sterilized jar in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Want to know more?
Lincoln Land Community College offers associate degree programs in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management and academic credit certificates in Culinary Arts and Baking/Pastry. For more information call 786-4613 or visit www.llcc.edu/hospitality-culinary-arts.