Fun ingredient: seed toppings.

On menus and in cooking magazines recently, I’ve noticed a fun new ingredient turning up with increasing regularity: seedy toppings. On salads of all stripes, on grilled meats and vegetables, on creamy soups. My favorite new Radish and Avocado Salad with Toasted Seeds recipe (inspired by a dish we had on vacation last month) has a scattering of seeds over the top. So does this Bon Appetit recipe for Grilled Chicken Kebabs with Sesame Sprinkle, which we’ve made twice in the past two weeks.

Dine out, and you’ll probably find a variation of the toasted seed topping or its cousin, the savory granola (find my savory granola recipe here), adding nutty flavor and vibrant crunch to just about anything. In the case of the grilled chicken kebabs, the sprinkle combined toasted seeds with freshly grated lemon zest and fresh herbs, which added a totally awesome dimension.

These savory toppings are super easy to make: just assemble a pile of seeds (see below), toast them in a dry skillet, and off you go. This is a non-recipe recipe: Just use what you have, or what you like, in whatever proportion you choose. Add just a tiny pinch of salt to bring out the flavor — you don’t want this to taste salty. Make a small batch just for dinner tonight, or enough to play with over the course of a week. You can’t mess this up. If you think of an instance when you’d want croutons, you can swap in a toasted seed topping instead.

Seeds to try: white or black sesame, flax, poppy, sunflower, pepita, pine nut, chia

Herbs to add: minced chive, parsley, savory, tarragon

Other add-ins: lemon or orange zest, black pepper, Aleppo pepper, freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese

Uses for toasted seed or seed-herb toppings: sprinkled on fresh ricotta on crostini; sprinkled on a chilled soup; scattered over grilled chicken, fish and vegetables; adding life to the traditional caprese salad, instead of croutons in a simple mixed green salad or a vegetable salad

seed topping recipe

1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds

In a small dry skillet, toast the seeds over medium heat until fragrant but not really browning, about 5 minutes. Cool. Add a pinch of salt.

seed and herb topping recipe

1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
Pinch of lemon zest
Pinch of Aleppo pepper
Pinch of salt

In a small dry skillet, toast the seeds over medium heat until fragrant but not really browning, about 5 minutes. Cool. Toss with herbs, zest, pepper and salt.

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