Creamy Crunchy Nut Butter Dip #NutSnackoftheWeek

creamy crunchy nut butter

In the fall, we are always looking for tasty ways to use our abundance of freshly picked apples. Sliced and dipped in our Creamy Crunchy Nut Butter Dip, our crisp apples make a great breakfast, mid day snack, or night time treat.

2 cups reduced fat Greek yogurt

1 cup natural nut butter, almond, peanut or cashew (or any you prefer)

4 tablespoons maple syrup or honey

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

½ cup chopped nuts (almonds peanuts or cashews)

Serve with sliced crisp apples

  1. Combine the yogurt and the nut butter in a small mixing bowl and stir well to mix.
  2. Mix in the maple syrup, vanilla and nuts (reserving a few to sprinkle on top)
  3. Serve immediately with slice apples.

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Recipe reprinted from In A Nutshell: Cooking and Baking with Nuts and Seeds by Cara Tannenbaum and Andrea Tutunjian. Copyright © 2014 by Cara Tannenbaum and Andrea Tutunjian. With permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

Liquid Gold: Beautiful Nut Oils

Nut OilsColorful bottles of nut oils lined up on a store shelf make us want to go home and cook.  Open the top and the essence of the nut is with you, as if you have cracked open a shell.  But cooking with nut oils is not the same as cooking with the nuts and seeds themselves.  Here is why:

Nut oils are fragrant delicate liquids that don’t hold up to much heat.  We prefer the ones that are labelled cold pressed, because they have been created with care.  When heat is added to the oil production process it denigrates the inherent flavors a tiny bit.  Cold pressing extracts just the fats without heat harming the oil, and it’s name ” cold pressed” is as descriptive as can be.  When people first gathered nuts and seeds to eat they soon learned that crushing them would release their oils, creating another useful product from the wonders around them.  Now nut and seed oils are made in industrial settings with big steel rollers doing the work, no longer crushed between 2 stones as in times long ago.  It may be quicker and therefore less expensive to apply heat, but cold pressed oils have flavors that are the essences of the nuts, truer and brighter than the warmed commercial alternatives.

The best use of most nut oils is in finishing a recipe, when no further heat is applied.  We drizzle them on top of soups about to be served or whisk them in to salad dressings.  A little goes a long way, their flavors are intense.  We buy them in the smallest possible quantities because their shelf lives are limited, and we don’t want to waste a drop by spoilage.  Keep them closed, cool and dry, and once opened, inside the refrigerator is the place to store them.  We pair the flavor of oil with the same nut when we can.  The oil elevates the nut’s inherent flavor, underscoring it’s best fragrant qualities.

Nutcentric Trail Mix #NutSnackoftheWeek

One of our favorite things to snack on is this Nutcentric Trail Mix.   It’s quick, it’s easy and it’s healthy!

nutcentric trail mix

Nutcentric Trail Mix

½ cup lightly toasted sunflower seeds

½ cup  lightly toasted pumpkin seeds

2 cups lightly toasted coconut flakes (large unsweetened are best)

2 cups lightly toasted walnut pieces

1 cup lightly toasted whole almonds

Place all the ingredients in a large bowl, and stir well to mix.

Store in an airtight container or resealable bag and enjoy for up to one week, if it last that long — yum!

California Here I Come

I’m in San Diego giving a book talk.  The Jewish Community Center  of La Jolla has invited me to speak at their Succoth festivities, and at this time of year it seems like the perfect spot to celebrate nature’s mother lode of nuts and seeds.  The Jewish holiday of Succoth is time to acknowledge a bountiful harvest.  An open lattice of boughs and fruits top a temporary wooden structure that observant Jews erect in their backyards, balconies, or even on their fire escapes as my father did when a child in 1920’s New York.  The open nature of the “roof” allows all those who eat in the Succah, as is customary, to look up at the stars, and contemplate the passing of another year on the Jewish calendar. It is a symbolic, ethereal structure that underscores the nomadic history of the Jewish people.  And as nomads, the ancient Jews of the Middle East would surely have scooped up the fallen bounty of almonds, sesame seeds and whatever other morsels they found as they wandered through the desert.  Before cultivation and the rise of settled agriculture, Jews gathered what was plentiful, and as their culture and cuisine evolved, integrated these resources into their daily sustenance.

almond spreadI’m delighted to celebrate in a San Diego Succah. I’ll be demonstrating our chocolate hazelnut spread from the book,made with almonds instead of hazelnuts. The group chose to use almonds because they are a local and plentiful California resource, a sentiment that resounds with the spirit of the holiday.  We will spread it on the fruits of the season and enjoy. I will look up at the sky, and be grateful for another bountiful year.

 

Hot or Cold: Almond Crusted Chicken; Remembrance of Things Past

Crisp autumn breezes, falling leaves and porches piled with russet-hued pumpkins cause many chefs to trade their summer recipes in for cooler weather fare.  We are tempted this time of year with soups and roasts and braises, hearty dishes served warm that delight us when there is a chill in the air and a frost on the ground.  But there is one summer favorite that gets made all year round, amongst fall’s crimson leaves and winter’s blinding white snows.  It is our almond crusted chicken, a recipe born from a long-ago memory of Cara’s.  This is an adaptation of that memory, always evocative of a certain place.  Summer camp at visiting day was a spot brewing with excitement and joy. Campers hadn’t seen their parents in 3 or so weeks, and every parent wanted to please their kid with treats whose flavors would evoke the feelings of home.  Cara’s parents always brought a crusty baked chicken cut into small pieces and often coated in cornflake crumbs.  Serve cold., on a picnic blanket, she loved it.  Cara waited all year for that crunchy treat, speckled on the outside like a gold rush miners rinsed remains of the day.  Rumors fly in summer camps that plenty of moms still make corn flake chicken, but our summer camp days are far behind us, and true or not,  memories of that chicken still touch us.

This chicken is a current version drawn from and inspired by those old memories.  We chose to soak the chicken before baking in almond milk instead of a buttermilk bath. We flavor the almond milk with lemon and mustard, elevating the tang that the milk imparts.

The lemon zest and tarragon give a zingy, perky touch to the crust.   The almond crust bakes with a flecked golden color, glints of burnished gold, flecks of hay and wheat.  The crunch is even better than the corn flake chicken of old. The flavor is exponentially better.  And we serve this hot as well as refrigerated on the next day.  It looses a little crunch, but if crunch is what you need, reheat the chicken on a flat sheet for 20 minutes at 350° F.  Straight from the refrigerator, this chicken has all the all of the characteristics of our cornflake chicken of youth. crunchy exterior, moist interior, and squishy edges, little crevises that are crispy and get a little soggy at the same time.  We serve this chicken all summer, and curse ourselves for turning the oven on when the outdoor heat was already high.  We’ve learned to enjoy this chicken all year round, especially when the oven can go on without everyone’s complaint about the additional heat in the kitchen.  While as chef-intructors, we teach it as picnic fare in the summer, fall may be the best time for this chicken.  No reservations about turning on the oven.  Great results are found hot as it comes from the oven, or cold and leftover, making it crunchy and squishy, if you like it that way.  And leftovers make a great school lunch!

ALMOND CRUSTED CHICKEN

Yield: 4 generous servings

2 cups almond milk, homemade or store-bought

1 lemon, zest removed with a microplane, then juiced and the juice strained

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

8 pieces (approximately 3 pounds) bone-in chicken thighs, with or without skin

For the Crumb Mixture:

2 ½ cups (9 ounces) sliced almonds

½ cup white or yellow cornmeal, preferably stone ground

3 tablespoons fresh chopped tarragon

2 teaspoons kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup all-purpose flour seasoned with salt and pepper

4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the baking sheet

 

  1. Stir together the almond milk, lemon juice, and mustard in a large bowl. (Set the lemon zest aside for the crumb mixture.) Add the chicken pieces to the bowl and toss them gently. Cover with plastic wrap and let soak for at least two hours at room temperature or overnight in refrigerator.
  2. Make the crumb mixture: Pulse the almonds in the work bowl of a food processor until finely ground. Add the lemon zest, cornmeal, dry mustard, tarragon, salt, and Almond Crusted Chicken 2pepper and pulse briefly, just until combined. Pour into a bowl and set aside.
  3. When ready to roast the chicken, preheat oven to 400° F.  Drain the chicken and reserve the almond milk. Working with one piece at a time, dredge the chicken in the seasoned flour until lightly coated. Tap off any excess flour. Lay each piece on a cooling rack or a baking pan lined with waxed paper. Again working with one piece at a time, dip the chicken lightly in the reserved almond milk and shake off excess. Drop the chicken into the crumb mixture and toss, pressing the almond mixture onto the chicken to help it stick. Make sure to coat all sides. Repeat with the remaining thighs.
  4. Place the chicken pieces skin side up (or rounded side up if there is no skin) on a lightly greased roasting pan. Drizzle the olive oil over the chicken and bake until the crust is golden and crispy and an instant reading thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thighs near the bone registers 185° F, about 45 minutes. Serve immediately or at room temperature, or refrigerate to save for future use.

Nuts by the Seaside

I just returned from a quick trip to Cape May, New Jersey on a perfect day that was part summer, part fall.  Clear light blue skies, warm sun, a touch of coolness in the air, fewer tourists than before Labor Day, and lots and lots of nuts.  The Jersey Shore has always had dozens of candy shops, mom and pop stores on small town boardwalks that sell countless flavors of salt water taffy and fudge.  The little pieces of pale hued taffy are wrapped in white waxed paper and twisted at the ends, the fudge is displayed in hefty slabs, cut and sold by the ounce.  But in the three stores that I popped in to, displays of nuts rivaled the taffy and fudge, nearly every one of our 16 favorites piled high behind the glass barriers, side by side with the sweet treats.

Salt water taffy has a long history as a seaside delicacy, although the name is misleading. There is neither salt nor water in most any of the flavored morsels.  Legends about the confection date from over 100 years ago, with origins in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  It is hard to tell when nuts and seeds joined the sweets in the boardwalk shops.  Nuts are a perfect snack.  They may not have the long history of taffy and fudge in these shops, but i think they are just if not more appealing.  And they may not have their roots along the Jersey Shore, but to me, those beautiful, breezy beaches are a great place to snack on them.

 

 

Pistachio-apricot-white chocolate chunk cookie

pistachioApricotCookies1cropped Categorically, I dislike dried fruit. Raisins, figs, apricots, any and all of them. Whether cooked or eaten out of hand, they have a certain smell and texture that just does not appeal to me. But in one certain cookie, where pistachios play the biggest role, dried apricots reflect the glory of the other ingredients, and I am learning to like them, even just a little bit at a time.

Really, it is all about the pistachios in this cookie. Every summer, for the past 17 years, I have catered for the New York Philharmonic when they perform their Concerts in the Parks series. And, they are cookie junkies. They often eat upwards of 800 cookies in an evening, between the orchestra members, support staff, and stage crew. Every year I am challenged to come up with something new, and this year was the debut of the pistachio-apricot-white chocolate chunk cookie. I had created the recipe for a chocolate chip cookie class that I teach at the Institute of Culinary Education, and it was perfect to bake in large quantity. The dough can be made ahead and refrigerated or frozen, and can be sliced and baked as needed. Nothing like a refrigerator dough for ease of production.

I try to present 8 to 10 kinds of cookies at each concert, with a rotating repertoire of dozens. But these were a new-found hit, the verdant pistachios nearly the same color as the Great Lawn, where they were served in Central Park. I stood behind the dessert buffet line and watched as guests skillfully used tongs to move other yummy cookies out of the way to turn up one of these treasures. They all said it was the combination of the nuts and the pale orange fruit that made them great. Big chunks of sweet white chocolate could only help. Maybe my foray into the pleasures of dried fruit has begun. I’ll keep trying. If nuts are involved!

Here’s the recipe!

Peanut butter and honey in space

I just watched a video of a Canadian astronaut making and eating a peanut butter and honey sandwich in the weightless atmosphere of the International Space station.  Out came the airtight wrapped tortilla (with an 18 month shelf life), spread with peanut butter stored safely in space in a plastic pouch.  The pouch needed to be snipped open with a space scissors, the scissors remained tethered to the wall with a ribbon. The honey came out of a typical plastic bear container, squeezed from the tip of his head.  The tortilla was folded in half, and eaten happily by the hungry astronaut.  No regular bread, crumbs would defy gravity and float everywhere.

crunchy? smooth?  It doesn’t matter.  Peanut butter has shown itself to be ultimate convenience food.  Tens of thousands of miles, and months away from earth, peanut butter provides protein, and an undeniable sense of home.

Walnuts and health

walnutsforpostNuts make the news so frequently these days. I find articles more often in the science section than I do in the food section of the newspaper. Today’s brief article in the New York Times says that walnuts may curb diabetes in women. Eight ounces a month will reduce risk by 24 percent. Different nuts have countless benefits, but this seems an easy, delicious and positive addition to a well-rounded diet. The reason why they are so helpful? Their unique benefits have not been quantified yet, but the national institutes of Heath are on the case.

Peanut butter oatmeal

My Uncle Jacob passed away this weekend at the age of 91, and he was a remarkable man.  A playful adventurer and an opinionated intellect, Jacob was a publisher by trade, and an always willing helper in the kitchen.  He mandolined French Fries, peeled carrots, and pushed warm, cooked apples through the food mill.  He loved nothing more than a fresh baked roll with butter, and he washed every soiled dish he could find.  He rightfully earned his nick name FOSP, for Food Service Professional.  Prepping was his speciality, not cooking, but there was one thing he created and prepared, and it is a nut filled breakfast staple that he has passed on to my children.

Jacob made oatmeal in the mornings, and when it was almost finished, right off the stove, he would swirl a heaping Tablespoon of slightly sweetened peanut butter in to it.  The heat of the oatmeal nearly melts the peanut butter, and the resulting cereal  is streaked with warm streams of protein packed goodness.  Top it off with a sprinkle of chopped peanuts, or a dollop of jam, and you are all set for the day.  We’ve tried almond butter, not necessarily Jacob approved but delicious.  Nutella is a natural addition too.

I’ll miss Jacob, for many reasons.  He stood fast for his beliefs, said what he thought, and always lent a helping hand.  Oatmeal swirled with any nut butter will always be his signature dish to me, and we can remember him each day we prepare it for breakfast.