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On my recent road trip, I visited one of my local libraries and borrowed 5 books on tape. We listened to 3 of them. I’m a big fan of Craig Johnson, the author of a series of mysteries taking place in Wyoming, and a TV series on Netflix called Longmire. This book, A Serpent’s Tooth: A Longmire Mystery was really complex. Hard to explain, but it’s about graft and greed and oil. Worth reading, for sure. Also read Stone Kiss by Faye Kellerman, another complex mystery about Lt Decker, an LA cop who journeys to NYC to help out his family when a murder occurs. Lots of violence in this one.  Not particularly a fav book, I’d venture. Then read Leaving Time: A Novel by Jodi Picoult. I’ve read most of her books – always very riveting. In this book, you’ll learn a whole lot about elephants since the protagonist in it is a young girl whose mother disappeared when she was quite young. Her parents ran an elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire. In the ensuing years, Jenna has tried to find clues as to her mother’s whereabouts because she just cannot believe her mother would have up and abandoned her. There are a whole cast of characters (her mother, her father, employees at the sanctuary, a cop or two, and a psychic). All play fairly prominent roles. Fascinating book – I really liked it, almost as much for the education about the behavior of elephants as about the mystery. A great read.

Also on the trip, I read a book (on Kindle) for one of my book clubs, The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin. It’s about the relationship between Truman Capote and his “swans,” a group of aging high society ladies, and specifically Beth Paley. I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not. Truman Capote was not a nice man, although the whole novel (vs. non-fiction, which this is not) is conjured from speculation about the years Truman was kind of adopted by the group of women. He cared about all of them (most were married/divorced, wealthy women) but in the end he betrays them all by writing a novella about their secrets, their marriages, their affairs (theirs or their spouses, information they’d all shared with him, thinking he could be trusted with their innermost secrets). It was scandalous, and yes, all that part is true. I finished the book, but almost felt like I’d read a “dirty book.” There is no graphic detail in this book – it’s just what Capote did to destroy these women, supposedly his dear, darling “swans.” He was the villain in the book, and in his old age . . . well, I won’t spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it.

I’ve written up an entire blog post about this book. (It hasn’t been posted yet, but will soon.) It may be one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s a memoir by Pat Conroy (an author I’ve long admired). He died a year or so ago – sad, that. In order to get the most out of My Reading Life, I recommend you BUY THE HARDBACK. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s an autobiography of sorts, but not really. He never wrote one, I don’t think, and I doubt he would ever have written one as he likely didn’t believe anyone would want to read about his (sad) life. In this memoir, he chronicles the books (and the people who recommended them) that influenced his life. Starting at his mother’s knees and continuing through influential teachers and mentors and friends. One of my book clubs read it, and I devoured it, cover to cover, with little plastic flags inserted all the way through to re-read some of the prose. Pat Conroy was a fabulous writer – he studied words from a young age and used them widely and wisely throughout his writing, but better than most authors would. He adored his mother, and hated (with venom) his aviator military father who physically abused everyone in the family, including his mother. They all took it like stoic Buddhas. I’m going to have to read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel because of reading this book. I’ve never read it. Conroy says that book’s first page is the best first page of any book he ever read in his life. Wow. And maybe my book group is going to re-read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (Vintage Classics) too because of the chapter on that book. We might have to assign that to a 2-month or longer read. If you have friends or family who are avid readers, this would make a great gift, this book, My Reading Life. If YOU are a reader, it needs to be on your bookshelf, but in hardback, so you can go back to it and re-read his stories. It’s a series of essays, each one about a sub-section of his life. A must-have and a must-read.

Also read The Towers of Tuscany by Carol Cram. It was a bargain book through amazon or bookbub (e-book). Back in the Middle Ages women were forbidden to be artists. Their only place was in the home, caring for children and sewing and cooking. But the heroine in this book was taught to paint by her widowed artist-father (in secret, of course). When her father suddenly dies, all hell breaks loose and she must fend for herself. Much of the book takes place in Siena (and also San Gimignano) as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Appetizers, Breads, on February 3rd, 2015.

bacon_tomato_jam_dukka_biscuits

 

Having never heard of Dukka before, I was intrigued. Even when we visited Egypt in 1997, I don’t recall anyone talking about Dukka, nor did I see it on any menus. Unfortunately I didn’t get to the spice market there, either. In the picture above you can’t actually see the Dukka because it’s on the biscuits.

Dukka is a spice mix. That’s all. It doesn’t contain anything all that unusual. But it’s as varied as saying “Italian seasoning,” which can contain a whole variety of herbs.  Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

Dakka (also Dukka, or Duqqa) (Egyptian Arabic): is an Egyptian condiment consisting of a mixture of herbs, nuts (usually hazelnut), and spices.  It is typically used as a dip with bread or fresh vegetables for an hors d’œuvre.  Pre-made versions of dakka can be bought in the spice markets of Cairo, with the simplest version being crushed mint, salt and pepper which are sold in paper cones.  The packaged variety is found in markets that is composed of parched wheat flour mixed with cumin and caraway. [It may also contain things like]  sesame, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper. Reference to a 19th-century text lists marjoram, mint, zaatar and chickpeas as further ingredients that can be used in the mixture. A report from 1978 indicates that even further ingredients can be used, such as nigella, millet flour and dried cheese. Some commercial variants include pine nuts, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds.

dukka_mixtureMost versions contain some kind of nuts such as cashews, pistachios, almonds or hazelnuts, with hazelnuts being a common one, also cashews. It sounds like every household cook has his/her own version of it, or maybe varies depending on which nuts and seeds are in the house at the moment. I found one other good-sounding recipe for dukka at Food & Wine.

The bacon-tomato jam is pretty straight-forward. Cook the bacon, drain, add everything else and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until it’s cooked down to a jam-like consistency. You can make this ahead, just reheat it before serving.

dukka_biscuits_bakedThe biscuits are all quite simple too – it’s a buttermilk biscuit, plain and simple. They’re dipped in dukka, though, before baking, and the tops are brushed with buttermilk and more dukka is added there. Cool the biscuits, split them, spread with the jam, and serve. Done.

What’s GOOD: I absolutely LOVED these appetizers. For me, it was the bacon that did it. The Dukka wasn’t all that prominent in the flavors, but then I didn’t do a taste test of just the biscuits and Dukka. I think Dukka, in Egypt for sure, is probably a next-to-the-stove condiment that’s probably made up in quantity and used on just about everything. Like we have salt and pepper – they have Dukka.
What’s NOT: a bit of preparation here – both the jam and the Dukka. The biscuits need to be made fresh – don’t make them the day before. Make maybe half an hour before you need to serve them. They’d be particularly nice served warm.

printer-friendly CutePDF
Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click on link to open recipe in MC)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Bacon Tomato Jam on Dukka Biscuits

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking instructor
Serving Size: 10

BACON TOMATO JAM:
1 pound thick-sliced bacon — diced
2 pounds tomatoes — ripe, seeded & diced
1 medium white onion — peeled, diced
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar — packed
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons garlic — minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons Italian parsley — chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
DUKKA BISCUITS:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces unsalted butter — chilled, cut into 1/2″ dice
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup dukka
More buttermilk for brushing on top of the biscuits
DUKKA SPICE MIX (makes about twice what you’ll need):
1/3 cup almonds or hazelnuts
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds
1/2 tablespoon cumin seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds

NOTES: The Dukka mixture can be made up in advance, and will keep for about a month in a sealed plastic bag or jar. The recipe for Dukka makes more than you’ll need for this recipe.
1. BACON-TOMATO JAM: Cook the bacon in a large saute pan until crisp. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate and discard drippings.
2. Add tomatoes, onions, sugars, vinegar, garlic, pepper flakes and bacon, and bring mixture to a boil, stirring often. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and jam-like consistency, about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. This can be made a day or two ahead. Reheat before serving.
3. BISCUITS: Preheat oven to 350° and position a rack in the center.
4. Pulse flour, baking powder and salt in a food processor until combined. Pulse in the chopped-up chilled butter. Add buttermilk and continue pulsing ONLY until the dough barely comes together.
5. Transfer dough to a work surface and pat and roll out to 1 inch depth. Use a floured 2-inch round cutter and cut out as many biscuits as you can.
6. Dip the bottoms into Dukka mixture and transfer the biscuits to a parchment lined baking sheet. Gently gather the remaining dough scraps and press them into a 1-inch deep round. Cut out more biscuits, dip them in Dukka and transfer to baking sheet.
7. Brust the tops with buttermilk and sprinkle with additional Dukka.
8. Bake biscuits until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack. Split and spread each biscuit (cut side up) with bacon-tomato jam. This assumes each person will eat two biscuit halves.
9. DUKKA: Preheat the oven to 350°.
10. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast for about 8 minutes, until golden. Coarsely chop the nuts.
11. In a skillet, toast the seeds over moderate heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and pulse until chopped along with the chopped nuts and pulse until coarsely ground. Transfer the dukka to a bowl, add salt and pepper, and allow to cool. Store in a plastic bag or sealed jar. Will keep for about a month.
Per Serving (you’ll have left over jam and Dukka, so this is likely very high): 548 Calories; 32g Fat (52.6% calories from fat); 18g Protein; 47g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 64mg Cholesterol; 1192mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on February 5th, 2015:

    This is very intriguing. I’ve heard of Dukka only in the last few months or so. I do love Middle Eastern flavors. The bacon tomato jam sounds fabulous all by itself. I’ll have to try this for sure.

    You’ll love it, I think! . . . carolyn t

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