Posts Tagged ‘walnuts’


Whichever you choose, that is exactly what I produced the other evening.  The urge for something sweet came upon me as I was making dinner, so I quickly made a batch of brownies.  I thought I had some walnuts in the freezer, but when I looked I had every type of nut but… so I sprinkled the top with a few leftover chocolate chips I found in the fridge and some shredded coconut hidden in the freezer (I still prefer nuts, though).  Into the oven went the pan while I served dinner.  We were having such great conversation that I forgot all about my brownies until my nose picked up a strange scent —— oooh, burnt chocolate.  I made a quick retrieval and sent them upside-down to a rack to cool.  The edges were pretty crispy, but I sawed them off and savored the slightly smoky taste of the remainder.  Here’s the recipe; should you make it, please don’t let it burn.

1 cup sifted flour
½ cup sifted cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s new Special Dark Cocoa Powder)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ¾ cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¾ cup toasted walnuts – if you have them
    Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Lightly coat the interior of an 8-inch square baking pan with Baker’s Joy or other nonstick vegetable spray.  Set aside.
Combine the sifted flour, cocoa powder, and salt.  Set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle.  When light and fluffy, beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients, a bit at a time, beating to blend.  Fold in the walnuts (or whatever you like to add to your brownies).
Scrape into the prepared pan and transfer to the preheated oven.  Bake for about 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool for about 15 minutes.  Cut into squares while still warm, but leave in the pan until cool.  Unless you have burned them – in this case, upend them quickly to stop any further cooking.


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When I was growing up, Christmas time meant a big bowl of mixed nuts in their shells.  Why only during this festive season I don’t know – perhaps they were a luxury to be enjoyed when expansiveness at the table was the rule, even for those of us who didn’t have much money.  So, this year I went off to the produce market and brought home a couple of pounds of these old favorites, except what I got was mainly walnuts.  A good amount of almonds joined them along with a few hazelnuts, a few Brazil nuts, and even fewer pecans.  When I read in the NY Times that pecan thieves were running amok in Georgia and that pecan prices were at an all time high, it didn’t take much for me to figure out how 2 pounds of mixed nuts contained about 10 pecans.  A long story to get to the point of walnuts and what to do with them.

One of the easiest and best things to do is to roast them.  You place as many walnuts as you like in a single layer on a baking sheet with sides.  Place them in a 350ºF oven for exactly 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven, cool, and store just as you would any nut in its shell.  Roasted walnuts exude a particularly slightly sweet toasty taste when still warm, however.

And here is a fancier recipe in which roasted walnuts add a nice touch:


Seared Duck Breast with Roasted Walnuts and Green Olive Tapenade

Serves 6

8 ounces pitted green olives

⅓ cup capers, well-drained

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1 teaspoon walnut oil

1 teaspoon fresh orange juice

Approximately ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

6 duck skin-on breast halves, neatly trimmed

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 cup roasted walnut pieces, warmed


Combine the olives, capers, garlic, and thyme in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade.  Process, using quick on and off turns, to just combine.  Add the walnut oil and orange juice and process to incorporate.  With the motor running, add just enough olive oil to make a well-textured mix – do not purée or allow to become pasty.  Scrape from the processor bowl into a clean container and set aside.  (The tapenade can be made up to 2 days in advance and stored, covered and refrigerated.  Bring to room temperature before using.)

Using a sharp chef’s knife, score the skin side of the duck breasts into a diamond pattern.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Place a large heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium-high heat.  When very hot, add the duck breasts, skin side down.  Sear for about 6 minutes or until the fat has rendered out and the skin is nicely browned and crisp.  Turn and sear the remaining side for about 4 minutes or until the outside is nicely browned, but the interior remains rare.  Remove from the pan and allow to rest for a few minutes.

Using a sharp knife, cut each breast on the bias, keeping the slices together to form a whole breast.

Place a breast, slightly fanned out, on each of 6 plates, with a large, neatly formed tablespoon of tapenade on the side and the roasted walnuts sprinkled over the top.  (Any leftover tapenade can be used as a garnish on almost any type of meat, as a salad seasoning, or on sandwiches).

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When I was little my mom would receive a package from “down south” (I think it was from her friend in Missouri and we lived in Colorado so why “down south” I don’t know) every fall – it was filled with black walnuts.  I hated to see it come ‘cause it meant hard work and blackened hands as we had to use a hammer and vise to hold the nuts and then our hands to extract the meat.  Black walnuts are hard as nails and black as soot.

All of this came back to me the other day when my friend Lynn showed me a bucket of nuts that she had picked up in her yard that she had planned to plant hoping for future trees that would yield their wonderfully hard, dense, and deeply colored wood.  I decided that I would like to save some to use in holiday baking but first I had to show Steve exactly what the process entailed.  I pulled off the outer husk but couldn’t show him the extraction as I want to let the nuts dry a bit.  There is one theory that says that you should remove the outer husk while still green for the sweetest meat and another that says you have to let the outer husk dry and shrivel – I’ll probably do something in between.  Here is an old-fashioned recipe for a great black walnut bar cookie.


½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1½ cups light brown sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted plus 2 tablespoons

½ teaspoon baking powder

1½ cups chopped black walnuts

½ cup shredded coconut

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

Lightly spray a 9-inch square baking pan with nonstick baking spray.  Set aside.

Place the butter in a medium mixing bowl and, using a hand-held electric mixer, beat until creamy.  Add ½ cup of the brown sugar and beat to blend.  When blended, add the cup of sifted flour and beat until completely mix.

Using your hands, spread the dough over the bottom of the prepared baking pan, making a neat, even layer.

Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.

Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack.  Do not turn off the oven.

Combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour and baking powder in a mixing bowl.  Add the black walnuts and coconut, stirring to blend well.  Set aside.

Place the eggs in a small mixing bowl and again using a hand held electric mixer beat until light.  Add the remaining cup of brown sugar along with the vanilla and beat until light and fluffy.  Scrape into the walnut mixture and, using a wooden spoon, beat to blend well.

Spoon the walnut mixture onto the baked dough, smoothing out to an even layer.  Return the pan to the preheated oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until the topping has set.

Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool slightly before cutting into bars.

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