Saturday, December 20, 2014

Salted Caramel Nuts...Lessons From the Contessa

Just like Holidays are supposed to be, life has been busy but I've been trying to BE present in addition to planning for presents!  If you are interested in cooking, there are always recipes that catch your eye and you just know that you HAVE to try them. I follow Ina Garten on social media and her recipes are some of my favorites -- simply elegant with wonderful flavors. (It doesn't hurt that she looks like she actually eats what she cooks, is gracious, and unabashedly loves her husband.)
I have previously mentioned that we wound up with a large quantity of walnuts and almonds, and they keep amazingly well in the freezer. A good rule of thumb here is that "if it has oil, it will spoil." Nuts are full of healthy oils, and if you have some that will not get used immediately, put them in freezer bags and allow them to warm to room temperature before using.
The picture of The Barefoot Contessa's "Salted Caramel Nuts" was too beautiful not to catch my eye as I broke one of the big rules of sleeping well and was perusing Facebook before bed. Realizing that we had all of the very simple ingredients, it was all I could do not to get up and go to the kitchen to make them. So, I compromised and took the walnuts, pecans, and almonds out of the freezer to warm.
Although I usually post my own recipes, I learned a great deal from making these, and wanted to share my experience with you. The result is an amazing sweet/salty/crunchy treat that is a nice change or compliment to the dozens of cookies that get baked this time of year.
To start off, here is the link to the recipe -
http://barefootcontessa.com/recipes.aspx?RecipeID=1047&S=0

Seriously, if you don't already follow her on social media, I highly recommend it. Her recipes are diverse and terrific, and even if they are not to your taste I guarantee that they will inspire you to broaden your scope of cooking skills.

Now, here is what I learned...

Salted Caramel Nuts

4 cups (total) of nuts, inclusive of Almonds (I used raw), Cashews (I used roasted whole ones with sea salt), Pecan Halves (I used raw, as they are plentiful here in the south!), and Walnuts (I used raw)
~ Toast the nuts on a baking sheet lined with parchment in a 350-degree oven for 7-8 minutes. You will know when they are done because they will start to smell wonderful. Remove them from the oven and let them cool. After they cooled, I put them in a bowl and left the parchment on the baking sheet.  
~ Put the 1.5 cups of sugar and 1/4 cup water in a good sized sauté pan (remember, you are going to have to put the nuts in it later). Cook over medium high heat until the sugar has melted, stirring as needed.  
Here's what mine looked like. (FYI - I used a 10' saucier pan, that came with a set, and it was great for this recipe)

~ Put the spoon away, because at this point, you are going to quit stirring it. This is the part that made me realize that I had to share my experience with y'all. Start swirling the mixture in the pan over medium/high heat and don't stir.
Swirl a little at first and more often as it gets to a light golden brown - at the end you should be swirling it constantly.
In the recipe, she mentions that it will look like it is crystalizing. She is right - here's what that looks like:


~ The mixture even got a little bit solid and I was certain that it was crystalizing. I just got "schooled" by the Contessa, and this is where you have to take her at her word, keep swirling. Just after this picture was taken, it melted into the most beautiful warm, clear, golden caramel liquid, and I actually cheered out loud! 
UPDATE - After making this again today, I decided to use a more aggressive "medium high" heat and did not have the above issues. I have a gas stove and did the first batch on "5" which is hot for my stove. Today's batch I cooked on "6" and it caramelized beautifully.  Either way, keep swirling!
Here's the picture I took when I finished cheering:


~ Confession, I didn't actually stir it, but just before taking the above picture, I pushed the sugar that had crystalized on the side of the pan into the bottom with a spatula and let it melt into the liquid caramel which didn't take very long. I "swirled" while it melted.  
~ Turn off the heat and add the 2 tsp of vanilla. It's going to bubble and "spit" a little bit. Keep swirling until the vanilla works into the caramel. 
~ Here is where you've got to work quickly because the caramel is going to start to harden. Put the nuts into the caramel mixture along with the kosher salt and start mixing with 2 large spoons or 2 heavy rubber spatulas. I think that with the next batch I will keep it over a low heat while I mix to ensure even coating.  UPDATE - On the second batch, I put the pan back on the lowest heat burner while I mixed, still mixing quickly and got much better coverage.  
~ Turn it out onto the baking sheet lined with parchment. I just used the same one I had used to roast the nuts.
~The recipe says to "pull" it out at this point, and mine was starting to harden pretty fast, so I happened to have another sheet of parchment handy and used it to press it out. It is molten lava - kind of hot - so be very careful. I quickly pressed it out with the other parchment paper, and although it was a bit thicker than the original photos, when it cools and is broken into bite sized pieces it worked fine.


~ Sprinkle the top with sea salt and let it cool completely and break into pieces and store in airtight container.


Late night last notes - Tonight was our city's Christmas parade. It literally rained on our parade. Tradition holds that after the parade some of our neighbors gather for a late dinner at one of the oldest  family owned Italian restaurants in town.  Knowing that everyone would be soaked by the rain and tired from walking and throwing beads and candy, I brought these treats along. The best compliments that any cook or recipe can get is for all of it to be gone, and for the sweet owners of the restaurant to ask for the recipe.  Hmmm, now that I think of it, I probably should have asked for their marinara recipe as well!  The beautiful salted caramel nuts are gone, and I'm back where I started ... maybe I will go to the kitchen and pull the Walnuts and Pecans from the freezer. 
Wishing you all a warm, safe, and joyous holiday! 

Friday, November 28, 2014

I love my enamel roaster and think that it gives a richer depth of flavor than a slow cooker. Mine is not a name brand, and was purchased at TJ Maxx for a "nice" price. There is only one small crack in the enamel, and I have had it for years. I read this today and wanted to share it with yall. No need to throw out a cast iron enamel pot, even with a chip on the inside!
http://americastestkitchen.tumblr.com/post/2625682856/chipped-enameled-cast-iron-dutch-oven-okay-to

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Pasta e Fagioli - Thankful for simplicity this holiday season


There are countless recipes swirling around this week for your holiday dinner -- I've been captivated by so many delicious options for Thanksgiving turkey roasting and side dishes that I can hardly decide!  Let's get realistic.  I love to cook, but I also have a life, and knowing that I'm going to be spending a lot of time in the kitchen for the holidays, I am all about simple recipes that will make wonderful meals and leftovers. It is my built-in break from all things turkey, dressing, and pies!

I referenced this recipe in the earlier Italian Wedding Soup post - We bought a bag of frozen Italian meatballs, fresh spinach, chicken stock, spaghetti sauce, and a few miscellaneous items and made two big pots of soup. The weather was cold, the soup was warm and comforting, and the time in the kitchen was minimal.  Clean up was simple, left overs were plentiful.  Just like most soup recipes - the flavors only get better!

Consider this time saving soup recipe to be your gift to yourself and your family this holiday season.  With just 15 minutes of kitchen investment, you'll have warm, healthy dinners and lunches to free you up to enjoy your time together!

PASTA E FAGIOLI

1/2 Bag Frozen Italian Meatballs
1 lb Italian Sausage, removed from casing
Olive Oil
1 Onion, Chopped
1-2 Cans Dark Red Kidney Beans, Drained
2 Tablespoons Flour
1 Large Jar (45 oz) Spaghetti Sauce (I used a very basic store brand)
1 Box Pasta (I used mini rotini)
1/2 Bag Fresh Spinach
Grated Parmesan for topping (Optional)


Put 2 tablespoons of Olive oil in a large stockpot and turn on medium heat.  
Remove the Italian sausage from the casings, and brown it in the stock pot.  
Add the chopped onion halfway through browning the sausage, letting it cook until translucent.
Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of flour over the sausage and onion, and stir until incorporated.
Add the entire jar of spaghetti sauce.
Stir.
Fill up the empty jar of spaghetti sauce with water and add to pot. 
Stir. 
Fill up spaghetti sauce jar with water again and add to pot.
Stir.  
Add meatballs (I like to cut them in half).
Stir.
Drain Beans, and add to stock pot.
Stir.
When pot comes to a boil, add box of pasta.
Stir and reduce heat to low.
Cook until pasta reaches desired tenderness.  
Add spinach to pot (no need to cut).
Stir.
Turn off heat.
Put lid on pot.  
Give it a few minutes for the spinach to wilt, and serve when ready.  
Top with grated parmesan - you can probably tell from the photo below that I love freshly grated parmesan.  This was grated using a microplane - and is one of the few specialty kitchen items worth its valuable but small space in the kitchen. Microplanes were originally designed as a woodworking tool, and they are invaluable for grating hard cheeses and zesting citrus fruit.

Things to consider
I like my soups thick and hearty - add more water or vegetable stock for a "soupier" consistency.
This is one of my favorite recipes from my Mom, and she mentioned that the past few times she has made it with smaller pasta than the rotini - try Orzo or Ditali.
When making pasta soups, the leftovers may be a bit "condensed" (the pasta soaks up much of the broth) we always add a bit of water when reheating.
For a little variation - add one can of white beans and one can of red kidney beans (drained).
Would you like more vegetables? Consider adding chopped carrots and/or bell pepper when you sauté the onion.  
Wishing you a wonderful holiday season, and lots of warm soup!


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Italian Wedding Soup




The night before our wedding anniversary, I made this Italian Wedding Soup.  It is light, but warm and comforting.  Just right for a cold night cuddled on the couch with my hubby.  I am pretty sure that I made the whole thing from start to finish in 20 minutes, and I'm not the speediest cook on the planet (or even in my family!)  But using a few shortcuts, that didn't take away from the flavor, made all of the difference and even led to a gorgeous Pasta e Fagioli with some of the leftover ingredients.  Plus - the combined expense for both soups was minimal and we are enjoying them and as always sharing with friends and family! So, we will start with the Italian Wedding Soup...


Italian Wedding Soup
3 Tablespoons of Butter
1 Carrot
1 Onion
2 Tablespoons of Flour
1 Container of Chicken Broth
3 Cups of Water
1 Bag of Frozen Italian Meatballs (we used Publix brand)
1 Cup Large (Israeli) Cous Cous or Pearl Pasta
1 Bag of Fresh Spinach
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large stock pot, melt the butter over Medium - Low heat

While butter is melting, chop the carrot (it does not have to be peeled, as it will cook until soft)
Put the chopped carrot into the butter and sauté

While the carrot is cooking, chop the onion 


Add the chopped onion to the pot



Continue to sauté until the onion is a little bit translucent
Add the 2 Tablespoons of Flour to the pot and stir letting the flour absorb the butter and juices from the vegetables - takes about a minute (This helps to cook the raw taste out of the flour, and will ultimately thicken your soup to a velvety consistency)



Continue to stir while pouring in the container of Chicken Broth (You don't have chicken broth? Dissolve several chicken bouillon cubes in water as per directions and use it instead - be mindful of the salt content though)
Add the 3 cups of water and stir until the broth and water have "made friends"



Put a lid on the pot and let it simmer while you take 1/2 of the bag of meatballs and put them on a cutting board. (We've got BIG plans for the second half of the bag, so put it back in the freezer)
Cut the meatballs in half, or in quarters, or not at all if you choose.  
Place the meatballs in the pot with the broth and vegetables and stir.

If the water is not simmering, turn up the heat.  
When it reaches a gentle boil add 1 cup of the Large Cous Cous and reduce the heat to low.
Leaving the pot uncovered, stir occasionally for 10 minutes.




Now - take 1/2 the bag of fresh spinach and just dump it into the pot (Reserve the other half, because we have BIG plans for that one too!)
Stir the spinach into the soup

Put the lid on the pot
Turn off the heat
This is where the magic happens...wait about 5 minutes and remove the lid and stir.  
VOILA!









We served this with fresh apples and crudités (chopped raw or blanched vegetables) along with the fresh ranch dressing (see earlier post) and the most beautiful garlic bread that my husband made while we hung out in the kitchen and cooked together.  

Things to know...Those cute little Cous Cous will continue to draw liquid and the soup will get thick. If reheating for lunch the second day - be sure to add a little water.

Now...wait until you see what we did (lightning quickly) with the other half of the bag of meatballs and spinach!


PASTA E FAGIOLI!
Totally my Mamas recipe! Is she italian? Nope, but she is an amazing cook and this recipe is one of my simple favorites.  But you're gonna hafta' wait until I get done with the Italian Wedding Soup before I can start on the Pasta Fagioli, so hang on to those meatballs and spinach! 

This was just prior to being doused with shaved parmesan cheese!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Simple Additions...Caramelized Onions

Have you ever considered the army of employees it takes to support your favorite famous chef? I have, and that is how I console myself when I see intricate recipes and craft projects that would take a week of vacation, a small army of minions, and a trip to a foreign country for ingredients.  
In the real world, it is often the simple additions that can make a very basic dish very extraordinary!
I have several big projects going on and was looking for something for a quick but special dinner for my husband and I. My heart was set on grilled cheese sandwiches, but wanted to make them a bit more elegant. Finding some basic cheeses, and some really GOOD cheeses, I decided to "dress them up" a little bit with some caramelized onions.  
I wanted to share the recipe and process with you because it is simple, can be done ahead of time and kept in the fridge for impromptu elegance, and can be used in so many different ways! If you like caramelized onions, you may find yourself tripling this recipe and keeping them around in large quantities.  
"What am I going to add caramelized onions to?" you ask.  Everything, if I had my way...but here are a few more specific ideas;
Fajitas, Omelets, Hamburgers, Sandwiches, Baked Potatoes, Mashed Potatoes, Quesadillas, Vegetables, Pizza, Bruschetta, French Onion Dip, Steak, Chicken, turkey, dressing...the list is pretty endless! Look for Spoon of Hearts on Facebook and let's talk about what dishes you "upgraded" with these gorgeous caramelized onions...

Caramelized Onions

1 Medium Onion
1 Tablespoon of Butter
1/2 Tablespoon of Sugar
2 Tablespoons of Vinegar
1 Tablespoon of Water
Salt and Pepper to taste

Take Medium Onion


Cut in half, then in 1/4 inch slices



Melt butter in pan over Medium heat (I use 4 setting on my gas stove) until bubbly



Add onion to pan and sauté (stir) until translucent, even a little brown

Sprinkle with the sugar and add the vinegar (I used white wine vinegar, but if you want them richer, balsamic works great, and in a pinch Apple Cider Vinegar works well too). There will be a bit of steam, but continue to stir until it melds together.


Add 1 Tablespoon of water and cook until they are the consistentcy you are looking for.  I like for them to still be recognizable as onions, but you can go as far as to cook them until they are completely soft.  


Add a pinch of salt to taste at the end, if you add it earlier it can affect the texture.  

We added them to grilled cheese sandwiches and juxtaposed with some name brand cheddar slices, and a really good french cheese called "Port Salut" - the result was rich, cheesy, and hit all of the happy taste buds! (It didn't hurt that it is Honeycrisp apple season, and with apple slices beside the sandwiches, we had lots of laughs about childhood grilled cheese lunches!)


Monday, November 3, 2014

Potato Soup ... Bowl of Comfort with Ease

The days get shorter, the breezes get colder, and there is nothing more warm and comforting than a bowl of potato soup at the end of a long day. When you feel like your day has been shorted an hour, it is hard to get excited about taking the time to cook dinner. This recipe is simple, and if you have the right leftovers, can be made quickly. This classic is even better if you make a big pot and enjoy the leftovers through the week, as the flavors meld and deepen.
Before I get into the basic recipe, here are a few things to keep in mind:

If you have leftover baked potatoes, they are awesome to use in this recipe. The skins generally peel right off, or you can leave them on, whatever your preference.

You can peel and boil the potatoes, but baked ones aren't as likely to dissolve in the soup. I like potato soup to be chunky; however, there are some who prefer to puree it for a velvety texture.

If you have picky eaters, make the basic potato soup, and serve it with toppings -- cheddar cheese, bacon, sour cream, chives, cubed ham, scallions, fresh black pepper, etc.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and this recipe is a great way to use leftover ham!

Get creative ... some great variations to this soup include cheddar cheese, onion, garlic, and corn.

Ready?

CREAMY POTATO SOUP

Approximately 3 Cups Baked Potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 Tablespoons of Butter
3 Tablespoons of Flour
2 Cups of Chicken Stock (OR 1 Large Chicken Bouillon Cube dissolved in 2 cups of water)
2 Cups of Milk (I used 2%)
1 Can of Corn (Optional)
Shredded Cheddar (Use as a topping or melt into the soup)
Ham or Bacon (Use as a topping or add to the soup for a richer flavor and more protein)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Baking the potatoes - If you don't have leftover baked potatoes, you can bake them in the microwave quickly. Bake them in the oven for a richer flavor. I had a bag of Yukon Gold potatoes and made mashed potatoes from half of them and used the remainder in this soup. If you haven't used Yukon Gold Potatoes, you have to try them! They have a buttery flavor and gorgeous texture, not to mention thin skins, which is nice if you decide to leave them on for any recipe.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  
Line the bottom of a baking sheet with tinfoil or parchment paper. 
Rub the outside of the potatoes with olive oil and place on the baking sheet. 

Bake for 15 minutes, and then turn them over and bake for 15 minutes more.  At this point, check them and continue baking until they soften and "yield to the touch."

Let the potatoes cool, and at this point, you can even refrigerate them for several days.  


Making the soup - In a large pot, melt the 3 Tablespoons of butter over medium heat.
When the butter is bubbly, add the 3 Tablespoons of flour to make a "roux." Keep stirring after adding the flour until the butter and flour are combined.
Reduce heat to low.

Add the 2 cups of chicken stock or chicken bouillon dissolved in 2 cups of water, continuing to stir.
Add the 2 cups of milk, continuing to stir.
(Stirring is important here - you want the ingredients to combine and dissolve anything clinging to the bottom of the pot)
After about a minute stirring it over low heat, increase the heat a bit until you see the mixture thicken a bit.
(Now is the time to celebrate - you just mastered the basic white sauce which can be transformed into about a zillion things, including Alfredo sauce!)

Remove the skins from the potatoes and cut them into bite sized pieces. Generally, I quarter them and then peel them like a banana, cutting each quarter into small chunks.  
Add the potatoes to the soup.

Here is where you have to decide what you'd like to add, and what to use as a topping. I added some leftover ham - cubed - and served it with shredded sharp cheddar and a sprinkle of chives. (See notes above)
Add a can of corn (drained) if desired for a light crunch. 
Reduce the heat to low, and let simmer for 10-15 minutes. This allows the potatoes to soften, and the ham (if added) to season the soup.  

Words of wisdom - If the soup is a bit thick, or you like a thinner consistency, add a bit of milk and/or chicken stock to thin it.  
I would have to use all caps and 5 exclamation points to tell you how much I think that baking anything on parchment makes a big difference ... you should try it - at least once!
This soup is great left over, and the flavors only get better!
We often make this when we are having friends over for chili - you can use many of the same toppings and it makes for a nice alternative for those who don't like spicy food. 


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Perfectly Spooky Potatoes - Roasted Potato Medley


It is that time of year again: beautiful fall decorations, Halloween costumes, festivals, and CANDY! Halloween candy is pretty awesome, and if you are like us - if we buy it too early - piece-by-bite-sized-piece, it is gone by the time the first trick-or-treater arrives. 

Trying to balance our candy consumption with healthy eating choices, we made these potatoes as a side dish, and they were a compromise between me and my husband. He really likes the little purple potatoes, but I like sweet potatoes better. They are both really good for you and richer in nutrients than basic white potatoes. So we combined the two. If you have a picky eater, feel free to add a yukon gold potato, or the small red skinned potatoes and just cut them up like you do the others.  

After roasting, these potatoes have a great Halloween look, and would be a fun way to eat healthy this week. They are simply delicious just as they are, or dipped in/topped with ranch dressing, greek yogurt, ketchup, or just about anything.  

We have a tendency to make more than we will eat, because the leftovers are wonderful reheated, or turned into hash browns for breakfast.  
I hope you get a chance to try these this week. Let me know if you have any questions and what you think about the yummy results! 

ROASTED POTATO MEDLEY - FALL FUN

2 Sweet Potatoes, Peeled
8 Purple Potatoes
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425
Cover baking sheet in aluminum foil (for easy clean up)
Spray foil-covered baking sheet with cooking spray (such as Pam)
Dice all potatoes into 1/2 inch pieces (Helpful hint ... the smaller you cut them, the less time they take to cook. The idea is to cut pieces that have about the same volume) Don't worry if some of the pieces are a little bit smaller - they will be the crispy ones!
Place the diced potatoes into a large bowl and add 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and stir to coat. Repeat with the 2nd Tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper and stir, making sure that there is a nice, light coating but not so much that there is oil pooling in the bottom of the bowl. (HH - If you have an olive oil "spray" type dispenser, this is a great use for it!)
Cubes of Sweet Potatoes and Purple Potatoes
Spread the coated potatoes evenly on the foil-lined baking sheet (lightly spray the foil with cooking spray).  If they are lumped together they will not roast, but will steam and be gooey. If your baking tray is small, or you doubled the recipe, simply use a second baking sheet or roast a second batch. (If you use a second baking tray, just rotate the trays halfway through cooking).

Spread the potatoes on the foil lined baking sheet
Bake in the 425 degree oven for 20 minutes. 
Remove from oven and check for doneness, looking for edges that are starting to brown.  
Use a spatula to gently turn over (No biggie if they are not all turned over)
Return them to the oven and check at 5-minute intervals as baking time will vary.
  
Delicious roasted potatoes, perfect for a fall evening side dish!
If you are lucky enough to have leftovers, fry them in a pan for hash browns for breakfast.





Thursday, October 23, 2014

Crispy Baked Chicken...Shocked and Amazed!

No frying, 3 ingredients, crispy outside, juicy inside.
PUT THE ROTISSERIE CHICKEN DOWN.
You know those recipes that you know are too good to be true? This is not one of them. I was fully prepared to write this one off if it didn't work - but I just found a secret that makes a beautiful baked chicken with crispy skin and doesn't involve some kind of voodoo ritual or cornflakes. Before I let you in on this game changer, there's a couple of things that need to be said.

This is all that was added to the chicken
1 - If you always buy the rotisserie chicken because it is easy, you should know that I made this in five minutes, AND it was fresh, hot, crispy, and there is not a candle in the world that can beat the smell of roasted chicken.
2 - If you always buy boneless chicken breasts, you are cheating yourself out of: money, richness of flavor, and the juiciest chicken ever.  Unless you are working with some serious sauce, boneless breasts of chicken dry out easily.
3 - "But the large package of 'bone-in' chicken breasts is just too much for our small household."  I cooked four large breasts, but could have just as easily cooked two and frozen the others. Instead, we used the leftover chicken in a creamy chicken and wild rice soup, and chicken salad.
4 - I love fried chicken skin ... there, I said it out loud. There is a reason that some of the top restaurants are serving it even without the chicken underneath. BUT, fried chicken is not fitting into the healthy eating plan and is more of a special occasion thing. This chicken was so incredibly bronzed and crispy, it didn't feel like we were "settling" for baked chicken.
5 - Seriously...I made this in five minutes, baked a sweet potato, and steamed some broccoli in the microwave and felt like a superhero.

Ready?  GO!

CRISPY BAKED CHICKEN

4 bone-in chicken breasts
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon baking powder (Shhhh. I will explain below)
1 large grin, for wearing when you see this chicken come out of the oven.

Preheat oven to 425
Cover baking sheet in foil (saves clean up)
Put a baking rack on it (totally optional, not sure it made a difference)
Mix salt, pepper, and baking powder in a small dish
Pat chicken dry with paper towels
Sprinkle salt, pepper, and baking powder mixture onto chicken
Bake for 35-45 minutes, until a meat thermometer reads 170.

Cover baking sheet with aluminum foil (saves clean up)
I added a baking rack but am not sure that it made a big difference
Pat chicken dry and sprinkle with salt/pepper mixture.
It will not have a heavy coating.
Bake at 425 for 35-45 minutes
Now, in case you were wondering:
The baking powder draws the moisture out of the skin and is what makes it crispy!
You can't taste it at all.
Don't use baking soda, it's not the same.
You could add garlic powder, onion powder, cajun seasoning, or just about anything to the salt/pepper mix.  I kept it simple to have some versatility in how I used the leftovers.  
Nope, I didn't use any oil, at all.  
You could use any variety of bone-in, skin-on chicken for this.
You could cut the breasts in half or have your butcher do it for you.
Leftover chicken simply rocks!  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Toasted walnuts, take 2...Rosemary Toasted Walnuts.


I don't like raw walnuts.
They are good for you.
Turns out you can toast them at low heat and preserve the health benefits.
YAY!

Did I mention that my husband bought 3 lbs of raw walnuts? I made a batch of cinnamon sugared walnuts and was pretty impressed that they turned out amazingly well even at a low heat for a short time.
They turned out so well, I improvised a savory version of the recipe and here's what I came up with.

Rosemary Toasted Walnuts

1 Tablespoon salt
1 Tablespoon of fresh rosemary or 1/2 Tablespoon of dried rosemary
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Oilve oil
2 Cups raw walnuts

Heat oven to 170 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.

Using a "beverage" blender or spice/coffee grinder, grind the salt, rosemary and red pepper flakes into a fine powder.

Salt, rosemary, red pepper flakes

Ground into a fine powder allows for better distribution
Place the walnuts into a good sized bowl.
Using a "spray" dispenser, spray the walnuts with a very light coating of olive oil, stirring to coat evenly.
Sprinkle lightly with approximately 1/3 of the salt mixture, stir to distribute the seasoning.  
Here is where it pays to taste the mixture. By grinding the salt and seasonings you will need much less than you imagine. Use what you feel enhances the taste, and reserve the remainder for other dishes. (This mix is amazing sprinkled on steamed vegetables, popcorn, and roasted chicken)

Spread the walnuts on the lined baking sheet.
Put into the oven.
Bake for 15 minutes. 
Take them out of the oven.
Enjoy the aroma while they cool.  

If you made the same "OOPS" that I did, and they are a little too salty, wait until they have cooled, and place them into a ziplock bag with a damp paper towel. Toss them around so that the paper towel picks up a good bit of the salt. Put them back into the oven for about 5 minutes to evaporate any moisture from the paper towel.

Rosemary Toasted Walnuts
Now, what to do with these besides eat them by the handfuls? Salads are getting to be more common around here.  These were a superb addition to this salad with apples, goat cheese, ham, in a light vinaigrette dressing.