Camus – as quoted by Rawi Hage in his award winning book, De Niro’s Game.
My book club recently chose to read Rawi Hage’s, DeNiro’s Game. Often, we care as much for the dinner that we make to accompany the book, as we do for the book itself. This always results in amazing meals, since one of our members is a nationally acclaimed cook, another is a wine expert, and the rest of us try to up our game to get close to their level. The risk is that sometimes the book plays second fiddle to the food, although this was not the case this time.
Although this book was not my fave rave, at least when compared to other recent reads, other members loved it to pieces. Totally. They especially loved the richness of the inner monologues. Fair enough. Me, I really appreciated the pervasiveness of the atmosphere that Hage created when his main character was in Lebanon, and I also loved the chance to think of making some Lebanese food.
I ground some wheat, made some Pita breads, and flung together some hummus and Baba Ghannooj to go with them. Since several of the members asked me for the recipe for the dukkah that we also consumed by the fistfuls, here goes.
It is a Middle Eastern snack, also known as the poor man's dinner. It is great as a New Years Eve munchable, hence it may be timely to offer it now. You will still have time to procure what you need, which is not that complicated, unless you are trying to get reasonably priced coriander seeds up here on the Sunshine Coast. Fortunately, I had some on hand. One caution – while most of this mix keeps well for several days, weeks even, the texture of the garbanzo beans do not improve with time. Not that this stopped me enjoying the rest of it in the weeks that followed.
Dukkah goes well with pita breads, although it can be eaten on its own. If you have store bought pitas, perk them up a bit by browning them on baking sheet in a 350F degree oven for about10 minutes. I made mine guided by the recipe from Flatbreads and Flavours: A Bakers Atlas by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. I also ground a couple of cups of wheat to make flour because I enjoy the nutty taste of fresh stone-ground flour. I used half white flour and half fresh ground.
2/3 cup sesame seed
1/2 cup hazelnuts, somewhat finely chopped
1/2 cup cashews, somewhat finely chopped
1/2 cup chickpeas (cooked or canned)
1/2 cup coriander seed
3 tablespoons cumin seed
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons paprika
- If you have store bought pitas, perk them up a bit by browning them on baking sheet in a 350F degree oven for about10 minutes. I used the recipe from Flatbreads and Flavours: A Bakers Atlas by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. I also ground wheat to make flour because stone-ground flour tastes nuttier than store bought. IN this case, I used half white flour and half fresh ground.
- Toast the sesame seed in a dry skillet until golden. I like my cast iron pan for this kind of task. Set the browned sesame seeds aside in a bowl large enough to hold everything.
- Do likewise with the hazelnuts, cashews, and chickpeas, and cook 4-5 minutes until aromatic. Watch them carefully – they can burn. Trust me - I had to pick out the burnt bits.
- Toast coriander seeds, thyme, and cumin until they start to darken, remove, and set aside to cool.
- Combine all of the above and toss with the paprika, salt, pepper,
- Serve with a side of olive oil in a bowl. The idea is to first dip the pita pieces in the olive oil and then into the nut mixture.
If you eat enough of this, I can guarantee that there will be no need to consider suicide, even though the characters in the novels by either Camus or Hage might suggest otherwise.