Nutty Nutrition—A Tangle of Tastes

Nutty Nutrition—A Tangle of Tastes

Nuts are humankind’s earliest and most nutritious natural foods. Whether they are employed as the major ingredient or as an embellishment or garnish, nuts are an indispensable element in today’s cosmopolitan recipes, as well as to every creative, yet practical home cook.

Beautiful hazelnuts. These were grown and picked by North Star Orchard right here in Pennsylvania!

Beautiful hazelnuts. These were grown and picked by North Star Orchard right here in Pennsylvania!

Nuts can give the contrasting texture, piquancy or flavor needed to impart an amazing quality to foods. Even in small quantities, they are marvelously flavorful and will give character to an entrée or side dish, and if toasted beforehand, the taste is even more pronounced or altered, and the texture crispier.

By using halved, chopped or crushed nuts, or ground to a paste, or whole, one or more types, along with the color and roughness, nuts promise to give a dish not only gustatory appeal but an intellectual one as well. One turns a mouthwatering mound of these savory sensations on the tongue and the mind twirls in gastronomic delight—nutty flavors linger almost indelibly! Each kind of nut impresses with its own distinct personality and when combined with another ingredient, flavors are exchanged so to speak, and one eats them together for the sake of what they mutually do for each other.

Millions of people in the world depend upon nuts to keep them alive…

Nuts are rich sources of protein, iron, calcium, B vitamins, zinc, potassium, and usable fats. They are especially good eaten after a meal, for nuts help to clean your teeth.

The subject of cost and fat arises today when discussing food. The cost of nuts in any one dish like the total sum of their calories is inconsequential. The number of nuts required for any one dish is usually small. If using nut milk mere 1/3-cup raw nuts will yield a quart of nut milk and contain less than 200 calories.

Keep in mind that nuts and seeds are excellent sources of the kind of unprocessed fat our bodies need. Nuts contain fatty acids (Omega 3 and 6) and high concentrations of amino acids that aid the body in burning fat! These nutrients encourage glandular production which in turn catapults the immune system, utilizing vitamins and regulating fat in the blood stream. These fatty acids, along with vitamin D, assist the body in utilizing calcium.

Nuts need freshness to recommend them in cooking. When buying nuts, avoid any that are split, stained or cracked.  Ask your grocer how long he or she has had them and remember that nuts sitting at room temperature for too long may become rancid or stale.

Most nuts sold in their shell are not roasted. Shelled nuts can be roasted or sold raw. Sometimes nuts are sold blanched, salted or spiced. I try to avoid any salted nuts because most are roasted in hydrogenated fats and over salted.

Nut Butter…

Everyone is familiar with peanut butter, right? But know that any nuts or seeds can be ground into a nut butter. The oil is extracted from the nut meal when the nuts are ground under pressure, giving the meal a “buttery” texture. Nut butters are a knockout health food! They can be any flavor and spread on bread, crackers, diluted for some soup bases, sauces or drinks. A tablespoon of cashew butter added to a pot of bubbling stew will add elusive richness and act as a catalytic binder, adding not only creaminess but diffusing balsamic properties through the substance of the dish!

Nut Milk…

Nut milk is another way of making your purchase go further and can be served hot or cold. Milk can be flavored with almond or vanilla extract, fresh or dried fruits, chocolate or carob, maple syrup or honey.

Use 1/3-cup of raw or roasted nuts to about 2 cups water. Grind the nuts to a fine powder and keep adding water until it is the desired consistency. It can be thick like a milkshake, or thinner like milk.  Serve it strained if you like. Adding powdered milk, or milk in place of the water will increase protein, but the nut flavor will not be as pronounced.

Of course, if you do not want to make your own nut milk, there are plenty on the market, but try to make your own at least once.

What nuts are in season now?

Here you go…and I am citing production here in the United States…

Walnuts: Late August to November

Pecans: Early September until the end of December

Pistachios: Usually harvested in the fall

Peanuts: Usually harvested in the fall (when warm and moist)

Hazelnuts: Usually harvested in the fall

Nutty Recipes…

Think of recipes you make by culinary habit and with your new knowledge imagine how the addition of a few, many, plain or salted nuts could enhance the dish. Try substituting one nut for another. Imagine the taste in your mind; walnuts for almonds, pecans for pistachios, pine nuts for macadamia nuts, etc.

     Using these ideas to stimulate your imagination, plant a few new thoughts in each session before you begin cooking— then, setting questions aside, open your senses and explore a new culinary territory! Use the following recipes to create, invent, or revise your repertoire. There will be plenty left over for you to discover and learn.

CLICK TO DOWNLOAD: blog-roasted-hazelnut-soup

Signature Offering by Annette O. Corona – All Rights Reserved

Roasted Hazelnut Soup
Makes 4 servings

Hazelnuts are almost always used for confectionary and turn up on holiday tables. It is a shame, for they are tasty and a great addition to stuffing and burgers!  I happen to love hazelnuts and I devised this lovely savory recipe.  It is a simple soup, rich-tasting and very easy to prepare.  Your family or guests will be impressed! It is the perfect paired with a salad of sturdy winter greens like baby kale or spinach dressed with sweet vinaigrette and serve as a light lunch.

Hazelnuts are lowest in fat and a good source of vitamin E.  In this recipe, first blanch your hazelnuts to remove the outer covering—do this by lightly toasting in a dry skillet over medium heat. When hot and fragrant, remove the hazelnuts to a plate and when cooled enough to handle, rub off the papery skins.

1 cup blanched hazelnuts
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
½-teaspoon sea salt
1 Quart chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup whole milk
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
A scattering of freshly chopped parsley (optional)

Grind the blanched hazelnuts in a food processor or blender and set aside.

Put the onion, garlic, potatoes, salt and chicken broth in a large pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Puree the soup in a blender and return the soup to the rinsed-out pot.

Over low heat, stir in the ground hazelnuts and milk; heat gently for a few minutes. Check the seasonings, adding more salt if necessary, plus a few grinds of black pepper to taste.

Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and serve each with a sprinkle of freshly chopped parsley scattered on top if desired.  Enjoy!

CLICK TO DOWNLOAD:  blog-cajun-peanut-grills

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Cajun Peanut Grills
Makes 8 burgers

These are easy-to-fix turkey burgers with a pleasant chewiness—and a great way to stretch a pound or more of ground turkey breast meat.  Of course, the burgers are also tasty with ground turkey thigh, and even ground pork.  Adjust the “fire” to your liking and serve on toasted buns with your choice of condiments—this is a great all-season recipe, so use whatever veggies are in season at the time!  At this time of the year, I am using bell peppers that I have chopped and frozen—thaw quickly under cold running water and pat dry with a kitchen towel before adding to the recipe.  Condiments could include ketchup, mustard, sweet relish, grated radish, and baby spinach leaves.

1 onion, finely diced
½-cup finely chopped green bell pepper
½-cup freshly chopped parsley
1 1/2- pounds ground turkey breast
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
½-teaspoon each: garlic powder, oregano, cumin, and ground red pepper
1 cup roasted peanuts, finely chopped
1/4-cup whole wheat dry bread crumbs

To serve:
8 whole grain hamburger buns, toasted

Combine all 8 ingredients in a large bowl, mixing gently. If possible, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Form mixture into 8 patties about ½-inch thick; grill (or broil) for about 3 minutes on each side until crisp and browned.  Let rest for 1 minute, and serve on warm toasted whole grain buns.

CLICK TO DOWNLOAD:  blog-homemade-almond-milk

Signature Offering by Annette O. Corona – All Rights Reserved

Homemade Almond Milk
Makes about 3-4 cups

This is a quick and easy recipe and makes use of any overripe bananas you may have — how sweet you like this milk will depend on the sweetness of the banana.  I add honey for extra nutrition—start with 1 teaspoon, taste, and add more honey a teaspoon at a time until you find the taste that suits you—or leave it out completely.  Feel free to substitute walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts for the almonds.

NOTE:  This almond milk can be served thick, or strained. chilled or warm.

  • For creamier milk, add 1 tablespoon raw almond butter to the mix.
  • This milk will keep up to 4 days in the refrigerator.

2 cups water
1/3-cup raw or roasted almonds
1 ripe banana
Pinch sea salt
1-2 teaspoons raw honey

Pour the water into a blender and add the almonds, banana and salt. Blend for about 3 minutes and taste. If you want sweeter tasting milk, add 1 teaspoon raw honey and blend for another minute. Serve. Delicious!

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