Category Archives: Nuts

Food Matters Project #32: Cardamom & Pistachio Pear Crisp

And we’re back with another installment of the Food Matters Project!  This past week, on February 1st, this little project celebrate it’s 1 year anniversary!  I’m really glad that I have been involved in these weekly posts- it’s given me an opportunity to think a little outside of the box, and encourage me to try different recipes.  Most of all, it’s been a wonderful opportunity to connect with other bloggers who enjoy a great cookbook!  Thanks to all those that participate, and all the readers at home!

This weeks recipe was chosen by Camilla, of Culinary Adventures with Camilla.  She chose Mark Bittman’s recipe for Cardamom-Scented Pear Crisp, from the Food Matters Cookbook.  Check out Camillas post on her Cranberry & Pear Cardamom-Scented Crisp.  Also, take a peak what other bloggers did with this recipe.

Camilla has also hosted these Food Matters Project dishes: Wheat Berries with Braised Beef & Parsnips, Fish Nuggets Braised in Rhubarb Sauce.  While we were still on our honeymoon during one of those recipes, here’s the fish version of our dish: Cod in Spicy Rhubarb Sauce.

Whenever I go to the grocery store and see that a bag of pistachio’s is “buy 1, get 1 free”- I always grab a bag (or two).  They are a versatile nut that can be used in many baked goods, or they’re a perfect mid-day snack.  How do you use or eat your pistachio’s?

Pear Crisp

This was a great dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  This dish was delicious since it was not overly sweet, a perfect pairing with tea in the morning.  Sam and I finished it off as breakfast leftovers with some honey-flavored Greek yogurt.

Pear Crisp

Cardamom & Pistachio Pear Crisp
Adapted from: The Food Matters Cookbook (pg 568)

4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup chopped unsalted pistachios
juice of 1 lemon
1 cup oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
pinch of salt
2 pears, cored & sliced
1 tsp cardamom

In a large bowl with a mixer, cream together butter, oil and sugar.  Then stir in the pistachios, lemon juice, oats, flour and salt.  Mix until the ingredients are combined.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  Spray a tart pan with cooking spray, or grease it with butter.

Press the dough into a tart pan, using only 3/4 of the dough.  Next lay out the pear pieces on top of the dough, then sprinkle with cardamom.  Lastly, sprinkle the last of the dough over the pears.

Bake the crisp for 30 minutes, or until the crust starts to brown.  Serve once it cools with a scoop of ice cream.

Supper Club Dessert: Baklava

When Borders was going out business last year, a friend and I decided to browse around the store one rainy afternoon.  Well, about $100 (on discounted books) and 3 hours later, I definitely had a little something to read for a couple of months.

One of the books which I picked up was The Art of Eating In.  Cathy Erway, a New Yorker, decided to not eat in restaurants for a full year.  She describes how this experience pushed her to explore the home cooking culture.  There are various chapters discussing trash-diving, urban farms, cook-offs and supper clubs.  I really enjoyed this book, and it definitely got me thinking about how the American culture is based on going out to eat (whether McDonald’s or Le Bernardin), and what other food movements are out there.  Definitely a fun book to read if you’re getting into the foodie movement.

One of the things she writes about is supper clubs.  A supper club can be a pop-up restaurant (the space can be rented out from a restaurant, or be a warehouse) and chefs put together a menu for a group of people.  This can be as small as 10 or as large as 100, prices can also vary.  Other times supper clubs can be made up of friends doing dinner together.  Now this can work in various was: everyone brings a dish and all dishes are shared, or 1 person can cook a meal and the locations are switched each time this supper club is held.

About the time I read this book, my friend Stephanie was suggesting that a group of us (4 couples) should do a supper club.  And so our little group joined together, and we meet about every other month.  Each couple hosts each time, providing an appetizer, entrée and dessert.  Everyone else brings the drinks!  The goal is to find recipes you had never made before to practice our culinary skills.

Last weekend we held supper club at our house and we chose to do a mediterranean theme.  I remembered that I had found a recipe for baklava and decided to make it.  Now this may sound funny, but I had never actually tried baklava prior to this night.  But why not give it a shot, right?

Well, dear readers, this was delicious and each of you should be making this dessert next time you have friends over.  This was not really sweet, it had a great crunch and wasn’t a very heavy dish.  Fairly simple and one that you could make a day ahead- it actually tasted even better the next day!

Supper Club Baklava
Adapted from: How Sweet It Is

1 package of phyllo dough
16 oz unsalted pecans
8 oz unsalted pistachios
6 oz unsalted almonds
2 oz unsalted walnuts
1 vanilla bean, scraped
2/3 brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 sticks of unsalted butter (or more)
1 1/2 cups of water
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract

Thaw the package of the phyllo dough per the directions on the package.

Combine all of the nuts in a food processor and pulse until everything is finely chopped.  Add the vanilla bean, and pulse the food processor 2-3 more times.  Pour the nut mixture into a large bowl, add brown sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and cloves.  Mix all of the ingredients thoroughly.

Melt the butter, in the microwave or pot.  Using a pastry brush, brush the butter onto the bottom and sides of a 9×13 inch oven-safe dish.  Then place the first layer of the phyllo dough on the bottom.*  Brush the top of the phyllo dough with the melted butter.  Then place another layer of phyllo dough on top, cover it with butter once again.  Continue doing this until you have 8 layers of phyllo dough.

Be gentle with the phyllo dough, it does break easily.  To cover all of the square footage of the baklava, I’d change things up by brushing each layer of the dough differently.  One would be diagonal, another around the edges, or making an X.  I was trying to have some fun with my food!

After the 8th phyllo dough layer, sprinkle about 2 cups of the nut mixture on top, spreading it evenly.  Then I sprinkled a little bit of butter on top.  Next, place a layer of phyllo dough, cover it with butter. Continue to do this until there are 4 sheets.  Once again sprinkle 2 cups of the nut mixture on top.  Continue to alternate 4 layers of phyllo dough with butter and the 2 cups of the nut mixture.  When the nut mixture runs out, add 4 more layers of phyllo dough on top.  Remember to brush butter on the top of the dessert.

Combine the water, sugar, honey and vanilla extract in a saucepan.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and let it cool for about 10 more minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Stick the pan into the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.  When you take it out, cut up the dough.  Since the layers are cold, it’s so much easier to cut.  Place this delicious dessert into the oven for 40 minutes.  When the top turns a golden brown, the baklava will be ready.   Once you take out it out of the oven, evenly cover it with the syrup.

Now you can either serve it that evening, or cover it and serve it the next day.

*I cut the phyllo dough in half, this way each piece I was picking up fit the 9×13 inch pan.

Chestnut Soup

We had some flurries tonight, but none of it stuck- I think it was too warm this past weekend.  But it’s still really fun to walk out of work, and see snow falling down.  Growing up in Illinois, we had lots of snow- so I’m one of those people that looks forward to a snowy evening at home.  Unfortunately, it does not come around very often in DC (other than Snowmageddon 2010).

But if you are someplace where it’s snowy and cold, and you need a good soup to warm you up, this is definitely one you should try.  We had made this soup when we had leftovers after we roasted chestnuts.

Have you cooked with parsnips?  They look a lot like carrots, but have a nutty flavor.  Roasting parsnips enhances their sweet flavor, which can be done prior to adding them to soups.  They are a great root vegetable, especially since they can last up to 3 weeks when kept in cool conditions.

Chestnut Soup
Adapted from: Richard Landau Vedge Restaurant (Philadelphia, PA)

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 lb parsnips, peeled & roughly chopped
¼ cup sweet Marsala wine
6 cups vegetable (or chicken) stock
1 lb roasted chestnuts, peeled
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Over medium heat, heat olive oil in a large soup pot.  Then add the onion, garlic and parsnips.  Sauté the vegetables until the onion is translucent and parsnips begin to brown, about 8-10 minutes.  Then add the Marsala wine and cook for about 4 minutes, the liquid should reduce.

Then stir in stock, chestnuts, cloves, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Bring everything to a simmer.  Cook for another 15 minutes, or until the parsnips are tender.

Once everything is cooked, pour everything into a blender or food processor.  Blend the mixture to the consistency which you’d like.  Sprinkle parsley on top and serve.

How to Roast Chestnuts for Christmas

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,
Jack Frost nipping on your nose,
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir,
And folks dressed up like Eskimos.
And so I’m offering this simple phrase,
To kids from one to ninety-two,
Although its been said many times, many ways,
A very Merry Christmas to you!
–Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire
(first recorded by The Nat King Cole Trio)

I actually only know the first and last verse of this song!

But this definitely puts me in the Holiday spirit!  I hope all of you are spending a wonderful weekend with your family and friends this Christmas- beginning with Christmas Eve!

So chestnuts- I promised to give you some tips on how to roast them.  (Check out the Fifth Floor Kitchen Facebook page to get article links, updates, etc.)

How to Roast Chestnuts

1/2 – 1 lb fresh chestnuts*

Preheat the oven to 475°F.  Spread out the chestnuts in a baking dish (this way they don’t slip out).  Find a flat side of each chestnut, and with a sharp paring knife cut a large “X”.  You want it to cut through the chestnut skin.

I really like how they all look!

Place in the oven for 30-40 minutes.  The edges will start to peel.

The skin is a little furry.

Let them cool a bit (to not burn your fingers).  Once they are cool enough to handle, peel the chestnuts.  Don’t let them cool completely, they will be very difficult to peel.

Enjoy this delicious little treat!

*The amount of the chestnuts does not matter.  I tend to buy 2 bags at the store (I know Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s carries them).

Broccoli with Sun-dried Tomatoes over Quinoa

It’s finally getting warm here, the weekend ended up being beautiful!  Although Saturday morning was gloomy and chilly, by the end of the day the sun was out.  We took a walk on the Mall, among all the tourists, and got a little sun.  For dinner we tried burgers at Good Stuff Eatery, which were delicious.  Spike Mandolhson is known from Top Chef, and he opened this burger join a couple of years back.  Both of us were very surprised how busy it was!  So if you’re in Capitol Hill, and enjoy a good burger- check this place out.

In order to counteract the (not so healthy) burger, I decided a quinoa salad would be much better for us.  So below is a great recipe, for a quick and easy salad.  As always with these, feel free to change the vegetables or keep these yummy one’s.

Broccoli with Sun-dried Tomatoes over Quinoa
Adapted from: Vegetarian Times

1 cup uncooked quinoa
3 tbsp pine nuts
2 tbsp grape seed oil (feel free to use another oil)
2 heads (about 1 lb) of fresh broccoli, cut into small florets
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese (feta can be a substitute)

Cook quinoa per package directions.  Once it’s cooked, add to a large bowl.  Toast pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Transfer to the large bowl.

Heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add broccoli and cook for 2 minutes, or until florets are coated with oil and begin to soften and brown.  Add water and cover tightly with lid.  Steam broccoli for 5-10 minutes, until the water has evaporated and the broccoli is tender.  Once cooked, add to the large bowl.

In a small bowl mix: sun-dried tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.  Stir to mix all of the ingredients.  Pour over the salad in the large bowl.  Mix the ingredients, so the vinaigrette is covering the salad.  Top the salad with goat cheese.