A Gift From a Friend’s Travels Sent Me on a Cooking Journey

Macadamia nuts are used in this recipe but any nut will work.
A Gift From a Friend’s Travels Sent Me on a Cooking Journey
The recipe that follows calls for macadamia nuts, but nearly any nut will taste great. (JeanMarie Brownson/TNS)
4/2/2024
Updated:
4/2/2024
0:00

Nothing tempts more than a bag of macadamia nuts in the snack cabinet. Just a handful, we tell ourselves, until they disappear. Preemptively, we tuck these rich and crunchy nuts into our cooking—for everything from brownies and nut tarts to crunchy coatings for fish and shrimp.

Macadamia nuts hail from Australia and are indeed grown there. However, the majority of macadamias in our supermarkets come from Hawaii, home of commercial production. In 2022, more than 37 million pounds of the nuts were harvested in Hawaii. The macadamia nut tree is a fast-growing tree; with proper care, it can yield nuts for 40 years. After harvesting and husking, the nuts are either oil- or dry-roasted by commercial processors.

Macadamia nuts have a high oil content which causes them to stale quickly. Store the nuts in the freezer to prevent off flavors. For baking and use in recipes, look for slightly less expensive broken nuts; save the whole nuts for nibbling on or adding to a snack mix.

A friend’s gift of macadamia dukkah from her travels to Australia sent me on a fun path—creating my own crunchy seasoning blend with the favored nut.

Dukkah, a traditional Middle Eastern condiment that varies with every cook, usually starts with hazelnuts or almonds and contains sesame seeds. After toasting, the nuts are crushed (the word dukkah comes from the Arabic word to crush or pound) with salt and seasonings. I add ground sumac or grated fresh lemon rind for a tangy note.

The recipe that follows calls for macadamia nuts, but nearly any nut will taste great. Just adjust the salt level if the nuts are salted. Use this mixture on pasta, fish, soups, salads and sandwiches. Even popcorn.

Sprinkle the macadamia dukkah over pan-roasted salmon for a simple dinner. Look for wild-caught Alaskan salmon, or responsibly-raised farmed salmon. Choose fillets about 3/4 to 1 inch thick.

A side dish, heated in the pan drippings comes together quickly with the use of cooked, packaged lentils (look for them in the refrigerator case). Cooked rice or small pasta, such as orzo, make a fine substitute

Macadamia and Lemon Dukkah

Makes about 1 cup
  • 2/3 cup dry-roasted macadamia nuts (or cashews), about 3 ounces
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds (white or black or a combination)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
  • 1 teaspoon each, ground: cumin, coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground sumac or finely grated lemon rind
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon each: freshly ground black pepper, ground allspice
1. Put nuts into a food processor or blender. Process with on/off turns until nuts are finely chopped (do not puree). Remove to a bowl.
2. Stir in remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust salt if desired. Store in a covered container for several days or freeze for several weeks.

Pan-Roasted Salmon With Lentils and Macadamia Dukkah

Makes 2 or 3 servings
  • Macadamia and lemon dukkah, see recipe
  • 2 boneless, skin-on salmon fillets, about 12 ounces each
  • Salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large or 2 small shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • About 1 1/2 cups (8 ounces) cooked lentils or cooked brown rice
  • 1 1/2 cups halved multi-colored cherry or grape tomatoes, about 6 ounces
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, such as cilantro, basil, parsley or a combination
  • Cilantro or parsley leaves for garnish
1. Make the Macadamia and lemon dukkah.

2. Pat fish dry and place on a plate. Season the fish generously on both sides with salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature up to 30 minutes or refrigerate covered for several hours.

3. Heat a large nonstick or well-seasoned cast-iron pan over medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles on contact. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and then lay the fish in the pan, skin side down, in a single uncrowded layer. Cover with a splatter guard. Turn the heat down to medium and cook, without turning, 4 to 5 minutes, depending on thickness. Salmon skin should be crispy and flesh should be nearly cooked. Add butter to the pan, then use a spatula to gently turn the fillets over. Finish cooking fish, all the while spooning butter over it, about 2 minutes. Remove fish to a warm plate. Do not clean skillet.

4. Stir remaining 1 tablespoon oil and shallot into skillet. Cook and stir until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in garlic, then lentils and tomatoes. Heat through, about 2 minutes. Stir in vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in chopped herbs. Arrange lentils on a serving platter. Top with fish. Sprinkle everything generously with dukkah. Garnish with herb leaves. Serve.

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JeanMarie Brownson is a James Beard Award-winning author and the recipient of the IACP Cookbook Award for her latest cookbook, “Dinner at Home.” JeanMarie, a chef and authority on home cooking, Mexican cooking and specialty food, is one of the founding partners of Frontera Foods. She co-authored three cookbooks with chef Rick Bayless, including “Mexico: One Plate at a Time.” JeanMarie has enjoyed developing recipes and writing about food, travel and dining for more than four decades. ©2022 JeanMarie Brownson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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