Pumpkin Seed Dukkah, Yogurt & Herb Sweet Potatoes

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Everything in its own time. That’s the refrain I now have in my head as I run around in these busy days. Over-committed and under-rested seems to be the name of the game. I’ve been pushing for things on so many fronts, both personal and professional that sometimes it seems like I’m trying to force the world to turn at my will– just a little bit faster. There is a darker side of will and desire and also in being willed and desired. Both acts and their counterparts lead back to each other, like looking into a fractal mirror. And while there is a lot of merit in the struggle and in having goals, virtues like patience, restraint and familiar refrains like “slow and steady” also hold meaning. Change and progress move at their own pace.

As I was trying to put together a recipe to share, I actually had a reprieve from that pressured feeling. I was thinking about summer squash and getting wistful for its season (as one is wont to do when getting up before the sun this week for work), but thoughts of pumpkin, sweet potatoes and squash started to get me excited. I realized that every situation, from the most resplendent to the most challenging requires patience and tending the garden correctly and with intention. If approached in this manner, when the season comes the fruits of my labor will come back to me in spades. No sooner, no later, like cherries trembling with life on the branches in late spring or pumpkins brightly announcing the arrival of autumn.

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After scouring the interwebs for Thanksgiving/fall recipe ideas, this simplified version of one of my faves came to mind. Sweet potatoes, dukkah – an Egyptian spice blend made with pumpkin seeds and almonds, a dollop of Greek yogurt, a dusting of herbs and a drizzle of olive oil.  That’s it. Small miracles like herbs and dukkah elevate the ordinary into something extraordinary. Since I made the dukkah blend, I’ve actually thrown it on everything from squash to fish and salads. This dukkah combination is my unique adaptation based on what I had on hand. It’s usually made with hazelnuts, I had almonds. It often calls for sesame seeds, but I added pumpkin seeds too as an homage to the season and its hold over me. This change in perspective is just a small example of how I’ve been finding my way through the kitchen and grounding myself by working it all out over the stove. Perspective through simple kitchen work. It doesn’t get more worthwhile than that.

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One last little thing. This week I met Mimi Thorisson from Manger and her husband and new baby Audrey at her book signing here in NYC! Sometimes when I meet an author or someone I admire, if the brief encounter doesn’t go well I get all sad as my idea of them comes tumbling down the pedestal. This meeting was totally the opposite of that! In a week full of deadlines and hard work this was the highlight. Mimi is just as warm and poised in person as she is on her blog. She’s very down to earth and really took the time to talk to each person, answer my questions about life in France with so many children, talk about food, recommend recipes and pose for pictures. She was really human in a very refreshing way. That’s is such an inspiration!

Happy Thanksgiving to all those celebrating in the States and wishing you all the perspective of the season. Thank you so much for reading and lending me your ears and eyes in this space that has come to mean so much to me.

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Pumpkin Seed Dukkah, Yogurt & Herb Sweet Potatoes adapted from Dolly and Oatmeal

Ingredients:

  • 6 small sweet potatoes
  • 1/3 cup scallions or green onions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • cilantro, for garnish
  • sage, for garnish (optional)
  • sumac, for garnish
  • mint, for garnish
  • 6 tablespoons pumpkin seed dukkah (recipe below)
  • 6 tablespoons Greek yogurt

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For the Pumpkin Seed Dukkah

  • 1/4 cup hulled pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 almonds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme (1/2 tablespoon is using dry)
  • 1 teaspoon sumac
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt

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Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment.  Lightly salt skins of potatoes; place on baking sheet and bake for 1 hour.  Remove from oven and cool to handle.

Once potatoes have cooled a bit, cut in half and carefully add Greek yogurt, mint/sage/cilantro/scallions. Sprinkle tops with pumpkin seeds dukkah blend and a dribble of olive oil. Add some extra sumac.

For the Pumpkin Seed Dukkah

Heat a skillet over high heat – toast pumpkin seeds and almonds, until slightly browned and fragrant, 1-2 minutes.  Place coriander, cumin, and fennel seeds into the pan for 1-2 minutes; remove from pan.  toast sesame seeds, then peppercorns. Allow spices to cool. Add the peppercorns, seeds, sumac, salt and thyme and grind in a food processor or a mortar and pestle, until mix is ground. Spice blend can be stored at room temp in an airtight container.

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