Category Archives: nuts

Maple-Bacon Spiced Nuts

photo-4

I love nuts.  From almonds to pistachios, hazelnuts to walnuts and everything in between they are one of  my favorite go to snacks.  And because they are filled with protein, in small quantities they are healthy.  However, sometimes ordinary nuts won’t do.  When that is the case, all it takes is a few spices and the nuts of your choice and you have a party worthy munchie in no time.

This recipe comes from the always reliable Washington Post food section.  You can use any nut of your choice, either alone or in a combination.  I had a generous stash of whole almonds and walnuts in the pantry so I used those.  Of course you can always omit the bacon but really…..why would you want to do that?

MAPLE-BACON SPICED NUTS

2 cups raw mixed nuts of your choice

1 large egg white, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

4 slices uncooked bacon

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place a wire rack over a swath of paper towels.
  • Combine the nuts and egg white in a mixing bowl; toss to coat evenly.
  • Stir together the brown sugar, salt, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, and ginger in a small bowl.
  • Add the spice mixture to the nuts and toss again to coat evenly.
  • Scrape the nuts onto the baking sheet, spreading them into a single layer.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring to break up any clumps, until the nuts are lightly toasted.
  • Use a spatula to transfer the nuts to a plate and allow to cool.
  • Brush the bacon slices on both sides with the maple syrup and arrange them in a single layer on the baking sheet.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, turning them over once until crisp on both sides.
  • Transfer the bacon to the wire rack to drain and cool then break the strips into small pieces.
  • Place the cooled nuts in a serving dish then add the bacon and toss to incorporate just before serving.
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Honey-Nut Granola

Just add yogurt and berries

Just add yogurt and berries

I love granola.  Growing up my mom used to make huge batches of the crunchy cereal and I remember dipping into the big metal tin for both breakfast and an afternoon snack.  As an adult I’ve gone through granola eating phases but as easy as it is to make, I had never made my own.  Inspired by my in-flight breakfast on Austrian Airlines this past weekend, I decided to try my hand at it.

I was able to dig into my full pantry and adapted the recipe to the ingredients I had on hand.  As I knew it would be, it was so easy to make that I think we’ll regularly have this cereal on hand.  I added chocolate chips but you could easily add dried fruit instead or you could substitute different nuts depending on your preferences and the ingredients you have available. I ate mine with Greek style yogurt and fresh strawberries but Sidney loved it dry, eaten by the handful.  However you eat it, enjoy!

HONEY-NUT GRANOLA

1/3 cup olive oil

1/2 cup honey

3 1/2 cups whole steel-cut oats

3/4 cup whole almonds, lightly chopped

3/4 cup pecan halves, lightly chopped

2/3 cup hazelnuts, lightly chopped

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Pinch of sea salt

  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Line two rimmed baking pans with parchment paper and set aside.
  • In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil and honey over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Do not allow the mixture to boil.
  • Combine the oatmeal, nuts and spices in a large bowl.
  • Pour the warm honey-oil syrup over the oats and nuts and stir with a rubber spatula until evenly coated. 
  • Spread the granola over the prepared pans.  Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the mixture is dry, stirring the mixture occasionally to distribute the heat evenly.  
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.  You may need to break up larger bits of the cereal.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

The granola can be stored for up to two weeks in a cool dry location.

Roasted Chestnuts

Chestnuts roasting in Ljubljana

Chestnuts are a perennial autumn nut.  Wander through any European city during the fall or winter months and you can see roasting on just about every street corner.  You can easily follow their distinctive sweet fragrance to the closest vendor.  There is nothing better than eating hot roasted chestnuts from a paper cone as you roam the streets.  This time of year chestnuts are also abundant in the markets.  From chain grocery stores to neighborhood shops and the grand vegetable markets, bins of the nuts are everywhere.  Not only are chestnuts good to eat “as is” they add body and complexity to other foods.  Whether combined with roasted vegetables and bread dressing or as a main ingredient in a  soup, they add rich complexity to any dish.

Roasting chestnuts at home isn’t hard but it is time consuming.  Last November in a fit of over ambitious insanity, we hosted a lunch for twelve two days before our sit down Thanksgiving dinner for twenty-four.  Thinking I could multi-task with my ingredients, I planned a chestnut apple soup for the lunch and a chestnut sage dressing for Thanksgiving dinner. Even with the able hands of my visiting parents (who for some reason haven’t visited since) Glenn and I spent hours trying to pry the roasted chestnuts from their shells.  I couldn’t figure out why they were being so stubborn and at that time I vowed that until we had access to shelled chestnuts I would not be including this tasty ingredient in any of my dishes.

Fast forward a year………….we are heading into Thanksgiving week and chestnuts are once again on my menu.  This year, however, my menu and guest list are saner and I have a plan.  I also did more research and I think I may have found an easier roasting and shelling method.  Chestnuts must be cooked before being eaten.  Various methods call for boiling, broiling, roasting, or grilling the nuts before shelling them.  In pure experimental mode, I used three methods for cooking my chestnuts:  grilling on the gas fired grill, broiling in the oven, and roasting in the oven.

X marks the spot
ROASTED CHESTNUTS

Regardless of which method you chose, it is necessary wash and score the nuts before cooking.  I used a small paring knife to cut a large “X” on the flat side of each nut.  Given the large quantity of nuts I had, this was a time consuming, and if one isn’t careful, dangerous task.  Fortunately I only stabbed my thumb once on this go around.



Oven Roasted Method:  Place the scored chestnuts on a piece of tinfoil, add a small amount of water, and wrap to form a packet.  Place the packet on a baking sheet and roast in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Chestnuts ready to roast

Grilled Method:  Place the scored chestnuts in a grill basket and grill over a 400 degree grill for 20 minutes.  Shake the basket every five minutes to ensure that the nuts cook evenly and none of them scorch.  You can also place the nuts directly on the grill but you will then need to use tongs to turn the nuts.

Chestnuts on the grill

Broiled Method:  Place the scored chestnuts on a baking sheet and broil under high heat for 10 minutes.

You will know the chestnuts are cooked when the nuts are fragrant and the shells split open.  Once they are cool enough to handle, peel the shells and the inner skin from the nut.

So which method did I prefer?  By far, the broiled nuts were the easiest to shell.  The grilled method worked well too but for some reason I found the roasted nuts to be extremely difficult to shell.  From now on if I can’t buy my chestnuts from a street vendor I’ll be cooking mine at home under the broiler.

The payoff

Try your chestnuts in the following recipes:

Fine Cooking’s Chestnut Soup with Crisp Prosciutto
Saveur’s Chestnut Pound Cake
Williams-Sonoma’s Pear, Chestnut, and Sage Dressing 
Williams-Sonoma’s Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Chestnuts

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