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JeanMarie Brownson: A gift from a friend’s travels sent me on a cooking journey

JeanMarie Brownson, Tribune Content Agency on

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

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