Nut Season

Shelled almonds (Prunus dulcis)
Image via Wikipedia

A nut is a dry fruit with an edible kernel in a shell. Some “nuts” are really legumes (Brazil nuts) or seeds (peanuts).

Nuts come from a variety of locations. Here are a list of the areas that produce the most:
Almonds: Asia, Italy, Greece, California, Spain.
Cashews: South America, India.
Chestnuts: Northern Italy, France.
Pine Nuts: Mediterranean.
Pecans: North America.
Walnuts: Greece, Italy, India, California.

Varieties
Almonds, cashews, chestnuts, macadamias, pecans, pistachios, pine nuts and walnuts.

Season
Traditionally, nuts were an autumn food, but now they are available all year long.

How to Select
When you are choosing nuts in their shells, pick nuts that are heavy for their size, and that the shell has no cracks or holes in. When you shake the nut, there should be no rattling noise.

Storage
Store in an airtight container in a cool dry place. Nuts have a high fat content and the fat can go rancid. They can also be stored in the refrigerator or freezer too. Store in the refrigerator for 4 months if shelled, 8 months if they still have their shells. Store in the freezer for 6 months if they have been shelled, and up to a year if it still has their shells.

Nutritional Qualities
Calcium, folic acid, magnesium, potassium, Vitamin E and fiber.

Trivia
One ounce of nuts daily can reduce the risk of heart disease by 10%. The healthiest of nuts are high in monounsaturated fats, such as almonds, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pistachios and walnuts.

Equivalencies
Almonds:
1 lb. with shells = 1 1/2 cups
1 lb. shelled = 3 1/4 cups
Cashews:
1 lb. = 3 cups
Chestnuts:
1 lb. peeled = 2 1/2 cups
Hazelnuts (Filberts):
1 lb. shelled = 3 1/2 cups whole Pine Nuts:
8 oz. = 1 1/2 cups
Pecans:
1 lb. shelled = 4 cups of halves
Walnuts:
1 lb. shelled = 3 1/2 cups of halves

Additional Information (Web Sites)
http://www.walnut.org
http://www.pistachios.org
http://nuthealth.org
http://www.oregonhazelnuts.org
http://www.almond.org

Recipes

Chicken Cashew Salad
by Jennifer A. Wickes
copyright 2003

1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
1/4 cup thinly sliced celery
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped unsalted cashews
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons chopped green onions
2 tablespoons plain low-fat yogurt
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

sprouts
4 croissants, halved

Combine first 10 ingredients in a bowl. Place some sprouts on 4 of the croissant halves. Spread 1/2 cup chicken salad over sprouts; top with remaining croissant halves.

Yields: 4 servings

Pistachio Ice Cream

1 cup half and half
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolk — beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup pistachios — blanched, chopped
1 tablespoon orange peel — finely grated

1. Heat half and half in saucepan; stir in sugar and salt.
2. Pour a small amount of hot half and half into egg yolks, stirring constantly.
3. Return yolk mixture to half and half; cook and stir over medium heat about 5 to 10 minutes or until thickened and creamy. Do not boil. Cool.
4. Stir in vanilla and heavy cream. Chill.
5. Pour into freezer container; follow manufacturer’s directions for freezing.
6. Add pistachios and orange peel when almost frozen; freeze until firm.
7. Allow ice cream to stand at least 2 hours in refrigerator-freezer to mellow flavors.

Yields: 10 servings

BLANCHING PROCESS: To blanch the nutmeats, pour boiling water over shelled pistachios. Let stand for five to ten minutes, drain and cool. The skins can then be removed easily between fingers and thumb, or by rolling between two coarse towels. Place in warm oven at 250 degrees F, for about one hour.

Pecan Pie
CRUST
1 cup flour
1/3 cup shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons water

PIE
3 eggs
Dash salt
1 cup dark corn syrup
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter — melted
1 cup pecan halves

CRUST: Cut shortening into dry ingredients. Add water gradually until just moistened. Roll and place into 9-inch pastry dish.

PIE: Beat eggs thoroughly with sugar, salt, corn syrup, and melted butter. Add pecan halves. Pour into a 9-inch unbaked pastry shell. Bake at 350 degrees F for 50 minutes or until knife inserted halfway between center and the edge comes out clean. Cool.

Yields: 6 servings

Homemade Marzipan
1 1/2 cups blanched almonds
1 cup powdered sugar — sifted

2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups powdered sugar — sifted
1 tablespoon egg white — slightly beaten
food coloring
powdered sugar

Process almonds in a food processor or blender, until finely ground. Combine almonds, 1-1/3 cups powdered sugar, water, and almond extract in a mixer bowl. Beat on low speed, until mixture forms a ball. Beat in 2-1/4 cups powdered sugar. Add egg whites, stir to a consistency of clay. Divide and mix in food coloring as desired. Dust mint molds with powdered sugar. Pack tightly into molds. Cover and store at room temperature. Serve at room temperature.

Yields: 16 servings

Quick Baklava
3/4 cup unsalted butter — melted
2 cups walnuts — finely ground
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
10 sheets frozen filo dough — thawed
1/2 cup honey — warmed
3/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice — strained

Lightly brush a 9x13x2-inch pan with a small amount of the melted butter.

Combine walnuts and 2-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon in a small bowl, set aside.

Cut filo sheets in half crosswise. Cover with a damp towel. Place 1 sheet onto the bottom of the buttered pan. Brush with butter. Repeat for a total of seven layers. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup walnut mixture. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons warmed honey. Brush 1 filo sheet with melted butter. Place onto nut mixture. Repeat with another filo sheet. Repeat adding nut mixture, warm honey, and two filo sheets until no nut mixture remains. Brush 1 filo sheet with melted butter. Place on top of nut mixture. Repeat for a total of seven sheets. Gently cut into 1-1/2×2-inch portions.

Bake at 350 degrees F, in center of oven, for 30-35 minutes, until golden.

Combine remaining lemon juice, honey and cinnamon in a small saucepan, over a medium flame. Heat to a light boil. Heat and stir for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Pour over baklava in pan. Allow to cool completely before serving.

Serve at room temperature.

Yields: 12 servings

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