The simplicity of Harold. Who is he? He’s not our in-house-special-chef. He’s not our cooking mentor or even family member, though he’s a bit of the latter. No, Harold is the name we give this dish, that is not a dish. If you know us well, you know that we give names to things all the time (the rooms in our house, apple trees, all kinds of inanimate objects – they do have a kind of life after all). This ‘dish’ is no different.
It’s not a prescribed set of ingredients, or the pot that it’s cooked on, or the serving preparations; it’s just a way of things. Some less inspired folk could possibly call it a ‘bread board’ or ‘sophisticated snack tray’ but that would still be sort of incorrect. Harold is also the style of eating this particular meal. Let’s get into it so you can see – it’s not a hard concept, just a hard one to describe.
Harold consists of parts, and ease, and togetherness. It generally can be centered around bread but flatbreads, tortilla chips, crackers, biscuits, lettuce cups, rice cakes, would all work – think stable surface to dip/pile on/slather, etc. Harold does center also around being on the same or very near ‘board’ or serving tray with accompaniments such as cheeses, mustards, charcuterie, cornichons or other pickles, nuts, fruits and vegetables, oil or butter or flavored vinegars, sauces/condiments/spices, but all as a relaxed affair of whatever is on hand or that you desire.
A ‘typical’ Harold for us (children do love the expected) – is bread, brie, olive oil with garlic and a little sea salt, roasted strips of eggplant, orange wedges or fresh tomato wedges, sliced soppressata, mixed cured olives, and nuts or dukka. Though we have had ‘Scandinavian’-style Harold’s (Sven’s?) with salted/cured/creamed fish, sweet pickles and onions, rye bread, roasted beets, capers…we’ve had Mediterranean-style with feta, pita, falafel, hummus, pickled onions, olives…and Spanish ones with specific tapas, and other regionally-inspired boards, breakfast boards with biscuits, honey, jam, butter, bacon or sausage, and oranges, it’s a place for a mini crockpot fondue or seafood dip – the combination and styles are endless and all about your access and preferences.
The key point is to make it fun and easy. It’s a dish to have on a low table, near the fire – or as a picnic in the early evening light, or at the table with a board game while playing records. It’s a meal to collect and connect. It’s an anniversary romantic dinner or ‘date night’ with a nice bottle of wine. It’s a time to savor and share dreams or exciting plans – it’s not a time to talk about serious things.
I bring it up because I’m itching for a Harold. He used to visit a couple of times a month (if not once a week for awhile) but we haven’t seen him in a long while. And Mother’s Day is coming up – whether you are/have/want to be a mother or not, this is a good lazy Sunday meal. End of the weekend, building up for the new week – or even a Friday or Saturday night – whenever you need to take it down a notch. Mid-week crazies? Harold should come to visit. We don’t have weekdays/weekends here – all days are days, so this guy appears when we need him. Or when we want to plan for him.
I’m planning for this weekend. And I know I want some cheese, some cured meats, some veg, some olives, and dukka. Just a classic Harold. And though it is still just mid-Spring here, I’m gonna find a nice bottle of pink wine and relax with my peeps.
Rock Bottom Dukka
Dukka is a Persian spice mix sprinkled onto bread or hummus or roasted vegetables. Here, at Rock Bottom, we use it pretty liberally – it might as well be a full protein option in our Harold. We dip our bread in oil and then dip our bread in the dukka. Use it as little or as alot as you like. The 2 key elements are toasting all nuts, seeds, and whole spices, and grinding them to your preferred consistency.
It is also an easily substitutable mix – we use a classic recipe as a ‘guideline’, heavy on the nuts, the seeds, and coriander, middle ground on cumin and herbs, smaller amount of salt, pepper, and exceptional spices…this last category is a great place to play up your ‘theme’ if you have one – spicy or smoky chili or pimiento powder, sumac, zaatar or ras el hanout mixes, nigella seed, garlic or onion powder, Old Bay or Sazon seasoning, things like that. As for nuts and seeds – classic dukka uses hazelnuts, but I have made yummy dukka with almonds and pistachios, as well – sesame seeds are kind of a must for me though you could use flax, though in place of some of them (and some of the nuts) I also like to add pumpkin or sunflower seeds. The coriander and cumin are best if they are whole seed but it’s not a deal-breaker if you only have ground on hand.
1 cup Nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios or a combo of any/all)
1/2 cup Seeds (pumpkin, flax, sesame, sunflower – or a combo of any/all, can substitute all of nuts for seeds if needed)
1/4 cup whole coriander or 2 Tbsp ground (added after grinding all nuts/seeds)
2 Tbsp whole cumin seed
2 Tbsp finely chopped Herbs (mint is classic, but rosemary, thyme, sage, bergamot, lemon balm, oregano/marjoram, basil could also work – dried or fresh, if dried, use 1 Tbsp)
2 tsp Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
*Good Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a small serving bowl
If you are using already roasted nuts – great, all the easier. If not, chop nuts to coarse bits (I put mine in a zip storage bag and let the child beat them with the flat side of the meat tenderizer) and toast in a Med saute pan over Med heat, turning often being careful not to burn them. Remove to small food processor or mortar. Add seeds, heaviest first, pausing a minute between additions, then whole spices to toast. Mix continually but slowly (or can shake pan as long as seeds still move around), and cook until fragrant and darker in color (if using ground coriander or cumin, add after pulverizing other nuts/seeds). Remove to processor/mortar.
Grind toasted nuts/seeds to desired consistency. We like ours ‘coarse but fine’ -ha! Not like a powder but not full bits, maybe like bread crumbs (not panko). Sometimes I use both toasted whole spices and add ground at the end, too (to taste) and I like to save a few toasted sesame seeds or add a spoon or two of untoasted sesame seeds at the end to cover all the flavor bases and texture. After grinding, add herbs, salt & pepper (more to taste). Leftover dukka keeps pretty well in a jar on the shelf for awhile (I’m afraid refrigeration would add too much moisture) but I would eat within the month or so (untoasted seeds will eventually go rancid). Great for whenever you need a little pizzazz or protein boost!
Enjoy your Harold – feel free to post pictures or comments of your combinations and loves!