Posts Tagged ‘walnut’

Pretty and Pink

May 13, 2013

Happy Mother’s Day!

I was inspired yesterday while watching a baseball game, seeing all the players wearing pink attire in honor of mothers. Also, because my mother asked for it, I’m finally posting this recipe for her. Happy Mother’s Day!

Beet and Walnut Purée

beet and walnut purée on toast

This is a recipe I came across in the book Spain: A Culinary Road Trip. The book is one of the influences that has put Spain at the top of my travel list as a culinary destination. I highly recommend taking a look at it for the recipes, exploration of Spanish culture, and beautiful pictures. I borrowed the book from the library and went straight to Quince, a Spanish food market where I shared my interest in Spanish cuisine with the owner, who grew up in Spain. As we went through the book, she pointed out where she was from, her favorite dishes, and items she sold that were mentioned in the book.

I spent weeks trying all kinds of recipes from the book and settled on a few favorites. The beet and walnut purée is a nice, quick, and easy recipe from Southern Spain, drawing on the Middle Eastern influence in the country using tahini paste. The beauty of this recipe is that you can make it from canned ingredients and it still tastes good. It’s now a year-round staple of my kitchen and a fun substitute for hummus. Plus it’s a ridiculous pink color which is just fun!

Beet and Walnut Purée

from Spain: A Culinary Road Trip

  • 1lb beets
  • 1c walnuts
  • ½c olive oil
  • 2T tahini
  • 1-2T lemon juice
  • ¼c water
  • salt
  1. Roast the beets at 400-450F for 40-60min, until they can be easily poked with a fork.
  2. Peel the beets and cut into large pieces.
  3. Chop walnuts in a food processor until very fine.
  4. Add beets and process until blended.
  5. Add olive oil (while food processor is on if possible).
  6. Add tahini paste, lemon juice, and water and continue to process until completely blended.
  7. Add a dash of salt to taste.

Notes and Variations

The beauty of simple recipes is the possibilities for variations. As I mentioned, this can be made with canned beets instead of roasting them yourself. This is particularly useful if beets are not available or so that you can make it with items from the pantry. My strategy is generally to roast a beet and store it whole in the fridge until I am ready to make the purée, up to 3 days later. If I make a lot of dip, I freeze it for another time, but usually I just eat it all!

Salt is called for to taste but I like adding paprika, a favorite Spanish spice. It adds a nice bite to the dip and intensifies its color. Other spices I’ve used are black pepper and cumin. Some cilantro or parsley would be a fun addition and, especially as garnish, adding a nice contrasting color.

For eating and serving, toast is simply perfect. I bring a jar to work and spread it on toast when I want a snack. I have definitely attacked it with a spoon before (as the website suggests!). For a great presentation, serve it in a pumpernickel bread bowl garnished with parsley or cilantro.


I hate lettuce.

January 11, 2011

It’s taken a few years of experimentation, procrastination, and wilted salads for me to realize that I simply do not like lettuce*.

watercress salad

The green stuff is not lettuce - I hate lettuce!

I have never been a huge fan of salads. Occasionally I’ll order one at a restaurant and I always eat them, but I have vague childhood recollections of plowing through a plate of salad just so I can get on with eating the good stuff. At home, I hate making them. Cleaning lettuce is tedious, even with a salad spinner. The ingredients don’t blend together well and there’s not much you can do to a salad besides arrange it. The pièce de résistance of the salad is the dressing which is only good because fat tastes good.

Last Winter I looked to a new cookbook for inspiration which helped, but did not solve the problem of not liking lettuce. This Winter I am continuing my quest for salads I actually enjoy. My most recent solution came from Cooks Illustrated: Fall Entertaining 2010. Page 46 had an article about “Warm Winter Salads” with three recipes and not a single mention of lettuce! After my shock, amazement, and excitement subsided and I read the article over and over to make sure I was not missing the L-word, I tried one of the recipes with success and, of course, some substitutions.

Radicchio and Watercress Salad with Warm Fennel and Walnut Dressing

recipe from Cooks Illustrated: Fall Entertaining 2010, p46

  • 1 large garlic clove, minced or pressed (~1½ t)
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 2 T sherry or white wine vinegar
  • ¼ t table salt
  • ⅛ t ground black pepper
  • ⅓ c and 1 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 c walnuts, chopped
  • 1 medium fennel bulb (~10 oz)
  • 2-3 anchovy filets (~1 T chopped)
  • 3 large bunches watercress (~6½ c)
  • 1 medium head radicchio (~2½ c)
  • 1½ oz Parmesan cheese, shaved
  1. Cut the fennel bulb (minus the stem) into thin slices.
  2. Whisk garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.
  3. Gradually whisk in ⅓ c oil until the dressing is smooth and emulsified.
  4. Heat the walnuts in 1 T oil in a (nonstick) skillet over medium heat, stirring until lightly toasted (3 minutes).
  5. Add fennel to the skillet and cook until it begins to soften and is very lightly golden (3 minutes).
  6. Stir in anchovies and cook until fragrant (30 seconds).
  7. Whisk dressing to blend and add to the skillet. Remove from the heat.
  8. Toss the greens and dressing.
  9. Shave cheese over each portion and serve immediately.

Watercress is a pain to clean and trim. I love kale but limit my consumption of it because of the effort involved in properly cleaning fresh curly kale. That being said, cleaning and trimming watercress made me want to clean kale. That’s saying a lot.
The recipe says it serves 6. I usually find that recipes say they serve 4 and I wonder what petite tasters they had. Not for this recipe! I ate watercress and fennel for about a week (lunch and dinner!) and it still wasn’t gone. Fortunately it was so good I didn’t mind a week of watercress salad!

As always, my recipe would not be complete without substitutions. I tried desperately to follow the magazine’s recipe exactly since they present their recipes with such precision and dediated research. I even went to a produce stand that imports nearly everything, rather than the local selection at the Fair Food Farmstand. However, radicchio was simply impossible to find 30 minutes before closing just after the holidays. So I used red cabbage and crossed my fingers. It was a bit tougher than radicchio so make sure you slice it very thin if you use it, but the flavor was fine. I also was not going to buy 2-3 anchovy filets to add a pungent flavor. Fortunately, I always keep anchovy paste on hand. A tablespoon did the trick.

*Full disclosure: there are many varieties of lettuce. I actually discovered one this summer that I cannot pass up – Butter Lettuce. I don’t know if it’s the way it looks, or its nearly velvety texture, or simply the fact that I usually pair it with shrimp, but I really like it. So this post should read that I hate all lettuce except for butter lettuce, excluding other types of lettuce that I have not tried.</span