Tag Archives: walnuts

Recipe: Baklava

8 Feb

I have a thing for baklava. But I’m particular about it–though I’ve seen (and tasted) many, many versions of it, this recipe has always been my absolute favorite: made with walnuts instead of pistachios and with rose-scented sugar syrup (known as atr) instead of honey. Baklava is a bit labor-intensive, but in the past I had eager young assistants to help cover and uncover the filo dough, and to watch this sweet, crispy, buttery, nutty confection unfold–and then, to help eat it in no time at all. This time, I lacked the assistants but had guests willing to do the honors, so the baklava disappeared just as quickly. Unfortunately, I realized far too late that I had not taken any photos of just one piece of baklava on a plate.  I hope the other photos can do it some justice in conveying its deliciousness. The recipe is adapted from Lebanese Cuisine by Madelain Farah.

B9

Baklava

Sugar Syrup
2 c. sugar
1 c. water
squeeze fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. rose water

Baklava
1 pkg. filo dough, thawed
2 c. chopped walnuts
1/3 c. sugar
1 tbsp. rose water
3 sticks butter, melted

Preparation

Syrup
1. Combine sugar, water, and lemon juice in sauce pan. Boil over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes, or until slightly viscous. Add rose water, remove from heat, and let cool completely. When cool, put in the refrigerator. The syrup must be cold when used later.

B1

Baklava
1. Combine nuts, sugar, and rose water; set aside.

B2

2. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Spray a 9×13 (or 10x 14) baking pan with cooking spray. Unwrap the filo sheets (seen below split into in two packages), keeping unwrapped filo covered with a piece of plastic wrap and a slightly damp kitchen towel. Have melted butter ready. (Note: some recipes call for clarified butter, but this one does not–and the results are equally delicious.)

B3

3. Remove two filo sheets from the stack, place in baking pan, and brush with melted butter. Repeat with more filo sheets, until you have used half of them. Do not brush the top two sheets with butter. Spread walnut filling on top of the unbuttered filo sheets, in an even layer.

B4  B5

4. Continue topping with remaining filo sheets, brushing every two sheets with butter, except the last two. Using a very sharp knife,  trim any bits of filo that hang over the edges of the pan, then carefully cut the top of the baklava into a diamond pattern, going only as deep as the walnut layer, not all the way down. Brush butter into the cuts, and across the baklava pieces. This will require a steady hand.

B6

5. Bake the baklava until golden brown–about one hour. Immediately upon removing from oven, spoon cold sugar syrup all over baklava. It’s important to use cold syrup, or the baklava will get soggy. Let cool completely before serving, then cut pieces all the way through and serve.

B7

Recipe: Walnut-Pomegranate Dip (Muhammara)

31 Jan

In the world of dips, hummus reigns supreme–but there is another Middle Eastern dip that also has lots of protein and lots of tang, and is equally easy to make. Although, now that I think of it, I realize it’s been a while since I made my own hummus; my local grocery store now devotes entire refrigerator sections to it and I have gotten lazy. This is a sad state of affairs–because hummus is really incredibly easy to make…. But back to the Muhammara. It gets its protein from the walnuts and its tang from pomegranate molasses, which you can find in Middle Eastern and Indian grocery stories and at a certain national, upscale grocery-store chain that shall not be named. Roasted red peppers also add to the slightly sweet undertones of this dip, which deserves a spot on any appetizer palette. This recipe comes from Bon Appetit magazine.

Muhammara
Walnut-Pomegranate Dip (Muhammara)

1 c. walnuts
½ c. roasted red bell peppers from a jar, drained (reserve the liquid)
1/3 c. panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. pomegranate molasses
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. dried crushed red pepper

Preparation
1. Blend/process all ingredients until coarsely ground. (Add a bit more panko or walnuts if too thin, or roasted red pepper liquid or molasses if too thick.)

Food processor
2. Place the dip in a serving bowl. Drizzle some olive oil over the top–or for extra tang, mix together a bit of olive oil and pomegranate molasses and drizzle that instead.

Note: This is what pomegranate molasses looks like, if helpful.

PM

Recipe: Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with Maple Walnuts and Balsamic Glaze

14 Sep

When it comes to beets, people either love them or hate them. I’ve been in both camps. I didn’t develop a taste for beets until I was an adult–specifically, until I had been an adult for a couple decades…. But now, I love the combination of beets and goat cheese.

I’ve eaten many delicious salads featuring those two ingredients, and wanted to see if I could come up with a version at home that was quick and easy to make. The solution, I discovered, is to have some already-cooked beets on hand. If you don’t happen to have any left over from a previous meal, you should be able to find steamed beets in your local grocery store (roughly 8 oz./4 beets per vacuum pack)–they are perfect when you need cooked beets, fast. I also wanted a quick way to glaze walnuts so that they ended up dry and crispy, not sticky or overly sweet. The key to achieving this is a trusty cast-iron skillet or other heavy-bottomed pan (see directions below).

This recipe makes two servings, but it is very free-form; it can be adapted to as many people and tastes as needed–just adjust the amount of each ingredient as needed. Note: To save time, make the balsamic glaze and toast the walnuts simultaneously; once those are underway, slice the beets and cut the goat cheese.

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with Maple Walnuts and Balsamic Glaze
Serves 2

1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
freshly ground pepper
1/2 c. walnut pieces
1-2 tsp. pure maple syrup
4 c. “spring mix” salad greens
2 small steamed beets, cut in half horizontally, then thinly sliced
2 oz. goat cheese, cut into small pieces

Preparation

1. Heat the balsamic vinegar in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan over high heat. Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat and let the vinegar simmer until it is reduced by half (to 1/4 c.) and has become syrupy. The best way to tell how much it has reduced is to pour the vinegar back into a heat-proof measuring cup to check. This whole process should take about 15 minutes. Pour the balsamic glaze into a bowl and let cool completely. When cool, add the olive oil, grind some black pepper over the surface to taste, and whisk to emulsify; you will need to re-whisk before serving.
2. Heat a small cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, add the walnut pieces to the dry skillet, and toast until fragrant. Drizzle maple syrup over the walnuts, mixing well to coat all the walnuts evenly, and keep cooking (stirring constantly) just until the walnuts begin to turn golden brown. Immediately spread the walnuts onto a plate to cool; they will end up dry and crispy after a few minutes.
3. Put about 2 c. salad greens on each of two plates. Top each with half the sliced beets, half the pieces of goat cheese, and half the walnuts. Drizzle with a bit of balsamic glaze, then serve extra glaze on the side.

Recipe: Chocolate Chunk Zucchini Squares

7 Jul

Okay, after my recent post about prolific zucchini plants, it was only a matter of time before some zucchini recipes started showing up on the blog. And seeing as I have a serious sweet tooth, I went straight for something chocolaty, moist, and doubly satisfying (because, after all, these Chocolate Chunk Zucchini Squares not only taste good, they also contain vegetables and nuts, so can almost be regarded as a health food….). Well, I’m planning on regarding them that way. If you use dark chocolate, even better: you’ll be adding some beneficial flavonoids to the mix. I dubbed this recipe “Chocolate Chunk” because I didn’t have any chocolate chips on hand today, but I did have some dark chocolate bars that I was happy to chop up and sacrifice to the greater good.

Chocolate Chunk Zucchini Squares
Servings: 9

4 tbsp. butter, room temperature
2/3 c. dark brown sugar, packed
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. finely grated zucchini, squeezed as dry as possible (try to end up with 1 c. total)
1 c. all-purpose flour (can also use 1/4 c. whole wheat, 3/4 c. all-purpose)
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
1/2 c. chocolate chunks or chocolate chips (about 3 oz. total)

Preparation
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8×8 baking pan with baking spray.
2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together; add egg and vanilla and stir until mixture is light and smooth. Add zucchini and mix in well.
3. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, walnuts, and chocolate chunks/chips.
4. Add dry mixture to wet mixture; stir just to combine. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
5. Let cool before cutting into squares.

Recipe: Peruvian Chicken in Creamy Walnut Sauce with Chili (Ají de Gallina)

4 Jun

We lived in Peru for a couple of years, and considered ourselves to be in gastronomic heaven. Peruvian cuisine takes advantage of the country’s geography (coast, jungle, mountains) and history (including the Inca, Spanish conquistadores, African slaves, Chinese indentured labor, and many other immigrants). All these influences–different foods and cooking techniques–came together to contribute to an absolutely wonderful cuisine, one that continues to evolve.

Of the many Peruvian dishes I like, Ají de Gallina is one of my favorites. Ají means chili; the yellow in this dish comes from the signature yellow chili peppers that symbolize Peruvian cooking (plus a bit of turmeric). Gallina means hen–in this case, shredded chicken. And the creamy, cheesy, nutty part of the dish speaks to European influences. It is traditionally served with black olives (which I had on hand) and boiled yellow potatoes and quartered hard-boiled egg (which I belatedly discovered I did not have on hand).

This is not a difficult dish to make, but does require some preparation time, so if your weekdays are busy, this may be best made on a weekend. I tend to make it in stages while taking care of other tasks around the house and in the garden.


Ají de Gallina (Peruvian Chicken in Creamy Walnut Sauce with Chili)
Serves 8

3 lb. boneless chicken breast halves
½ onion
2 carrots, peeled
2 bay leaves
4 slices white bread, crusts removed, cut into quarters
1 (12-oz.) can evaporated milk, plus extra milk if needed
3 tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
2 large onions, diced
4-6 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp. aji amarillo paste (yellow chili paste)–available at international/Latin food markets
2 tsp. turmeric
1.5 tsp. salt
pinch pepper
1 c. chopped walnuts, toasted (see below)
¾ c. grated Parmesan cheese

Accompaniments:
boiled yellow potatoes, peeled and halved
black olives
hard-boiled eggs, quartered

Preparation

1. Place chicken breasts in a large pot, and add onions, carrots, and bay leaves. Add enough water to cover the chicken, then lightly salt the water. Bring water to a boil, immediately turn off the heat, cover pot, and let the chicken poach for about an hour. Remove chicken from the broth, let cool, and then shred with clean fingers. Reserve all of the broth.
2. Meanwhile, soak the bread in the milk.


Clockwise from top left: chicken broth from poaching process, shredded chicken, aji amarillo (yellow chili) paste, bread soaked in milk.

3. Sauté onion in oil in a heavy-bottomed Dutch Oven or large pot over medium heat until softened and turning golden at edges. Add garlic, cook 2 more minutes, then add the turmeric, salt, and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes, then add aji amarillo paste and cook for 5 more minutes. Note: 2 tbsp. chili paste gives this dish a nice little kick; for more heat, add 3 tbsp.
4. Toast the walnuts (place walnuts on a baking sheet in a single layer, and toast in a 350-degree oven for about 5-10 minutes or until lightly golden and aromatic; be careful not to burn them, as I have done on more than one occasion when trying to do too much multitasking….).


Left: onion-garlic-chili paste mixture. Right: toasted walnuts

5. Put the bread and milk into a blender or food processor, add the toasted walnuts and a splash of reserved chicken broth (about 1/4 c.), and blend until smooth. Add this mixture to the onions in the pot, cook for a few minutes, adding more broth if necessary to thin, then add chicken and parmesan cheese. Thin as needed with more milk or broth (you will probably need a fair amount; add more milk for a creamier texture, more broth for a lighter dish). Add more salt and pepper to taste.
6. Serve over rice and with suggested accompaniments. Garnish with some chopped parsley for additional color, if desired.

Recipe: Turkish Feta Dip with Paprika

27 Apr

Fantastic on its own, this dip is even better as the basis for many delectable creations, from mini appetizer stacks to a range of sandwiches (try it on some crusty bread or a cracker, topped with Eggplant with Garlic Vinaigrette and some Roasted and Marinated Bell Peppers). The cheese, yogurt, and walnuts provide a protein boost, but that’s not why you’ll want to eat this. You’ll want it for the nice tang and the endless possibilities. You can adapt it any way you like: more or less garlic or chili flakes, mint instead of parsley, walnuts or no walnuts, etc. Now that I think of it, this dip would probably be nice with some chopped Kalamata olives mixed in, too.

Turkish Feta Dip with Paprika

8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1 tsp. paprika
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 c. chopped walnuts
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 tbsp. plain yogurt
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
sprinkle red chilli flakes (crushed red pepper)
1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley (or 1 tsp. dried mint)

Preparation

1. Place the feta in a medium bowl and mask with a fork. Sprinkle with paprika and mix in garlic.
2. Toast the walnuts in a 350-degree oven for about 5 minutes. Remove and crush finely with a mortar and pestle (or in a bag using a rolling pin), then add to feta mixture in bowl.
3. Add remaining ingredients and mix well to combine. If dip appears too thick, add a bit more yogurt.
4. Optional: drizzle with olive oil before serving.
5. Serve with crusty bread, pita bread, pita chips, toasted pita with zaatar, or any other cracker.

Recipe: Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

16 Jan

When it comes to baked goods, there are few things I don’t love. I’m especially fond of baked goods with oats in them (oatmeal cookies, layered oat bars with jam, fruit crisps with an oat-based topping…). And pumpkin (pumpkin brownies, pumpkin bread/cake, pumpkin pancakes…). And chocolate (the list is infinite). And I mustn’t forget walnuts….

So what could be better than all of those things combined in one cookie? Not much. These are soft and full of flavor and texture. My husband made these one night after I was pining for something sweet, and they were all gone by the next afternoon (but lest you think the worst, I had lots of help eating them).

Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies © G. Stansbury

Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yield: 4 dozen cookies

1 1/4 c. all purpose flour
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/3 c. rolled oats
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. white sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
2/3 c. canola oil
2 tbsp. molasses
1 c.  canned pumpkin
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 c.  chocolate chips

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease two cookie sheets.
2. Mix together first six ingredients.
3. In a separate bowl, mix together sugars, molasses, pumpkin, and vanilla until very well combined.
4. Add dry ingredients to wet ones, folding to combine. Fold in walnuts and chocolate chips.
5. Drop by tablespoons onto prepared sheets, one inch apart. Flatten tops of cookies with a fork or your finger.
6. Bake for 16 minutes or until golden on bottom, rotating sheets half way through.
7. Remove from oven, cool on baking sheets for 3 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack or clean counter. These taste best cool, and are especially good the next day.

Adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz.