Injecting a taste of the exotic at Thanksgiving is a tricky business. After all, this is a holiday built on tradition; mess too much with what everyone loves and you're going to have some grumpy diners.
Which doesn't mean you can't mix it up a bit. You just have to be selective. Start by leaving the turkey alone. Don't get fancy. Just roast it straight up and delicious. Same goes for the mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy. Nobody wants you changing those. The cranberry sauce? Fair game. Turn it into a salsa. Add crazy dried fruits. Whatever.
Ditto for the vegetables. Face it, people aren't eating Thanksgiving dinner for the vegetables, anyway. So do whatever moves you.
The dinner rolls are another place you can play around. For this recipe, we took a basic — and ridiculously easy — approach to monkey bread (pull-apart bread), and simply added the exotic flavor of dukkah, an Egyptian seasoning blend made from herbs, spices and ground nuts. It has a warm, savory flavor that works well with Thanksgiving staples.
DUKKAH MONKEY ROLLS
Start to finish: 1 hour 15 minutes (15 minutes active)
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted
1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh mint
1/4 cup fresh marjoram
16-ounce frozen white bread dough, thawed
6 tablespoons butter, melted
Coat a muffin tin with cooking spray.
To make the dukkah, in a food processor, combine the sesame seeds, hazelnuts, coriander, cumin, salt, pepper, mint and marjoram. Pulse until well chopped and sandy in texture.
Cut the bread dough into small pieces, about the size of a marble. Place the dough pieces in a zip-close plastic bag. Add the melted butter, then close the bag and toss the mixture around inside the bag until everything is well coated. Add the dukkah and toss again.
Place about 1/2 cup of the coated bread dough pieces into each muffin well. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400 F.
After the dough has sat for 30 minutes, uncover and bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 30 minutes. Cool in the pan until easily handled, then remove from the muffin wells and serve warm.
Nutrition information per serving: 210 calories; 110 calories from fat (52 percent of total calories); 12 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 15 mg cholesterol; 20 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 6 g protein; 380 mg sodium.