Tag Archives: hazelnuts

Haricots Verts and Snow Peas with Hazelnut and Orange

DSC_5534Everyone always told my sister and I that we would become good friends when we got older.  I’m not sure if they said this because we fought like cats and dogs, or because they really believed it.  By the time we were teenagers, we barely spoke to each other, and when we did it was usually in a passive aggressive tone.  When I went off to college, I barely saw her, other than a few times when I was home for the summer.  Throughout our 20’s (we are merely 17 months apart) I waited for the intimacy that everyone said would magically happen to us.  It never did.

Heidi, my sister, and I couldn’t be more different.  As a teenager, she ran with the “wild” crowd­–she smoked, drank, and listened to heavy metal.  I, on the other hand, found her world to be a bit scary and intimidating.  I was drawn more towards the funny, smart kids, and listened exclusively to pop music.  I have to believe that our troubled home life informed both of our worlds at the time.  Perhaps she gave in to the hopelessness of it all, or maybe it was just her way of coping.  I desperately wanted to believe that there was a bigger world out there, and tried to find people that had access to a brighter reality.  I remember getting all A’s in the 9th grade, for the first time ever, and understanding that somehow this was key to me transcending whatever it was I was trying to escape.
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One of the characteristics that make us so different is that I really enjoy having thoughtful, in-depth conversations with people in general.  I am fascinated by human behavior and relationships between human beings.  Of course, I realize that not everyone is comfortable with intimacy.  And I have always gotten the sense that this type of conversation makes my sister squirm, that true intimacy in general makes her uncomfortable.  Again, it might have something to do with the way we were raised.  Perhaps she is merely trying to survive out there, but I am often times searching for meaning and connection with other people.  Because of this dissonance, our relationship has always felt stagnant.

My sister recently went through a divorce, and I think her heart has been cracked open a bit.  Leonard Cohen sings, “There is a crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”  I do think that some people’s hearts have to be cracked wide open by life before they can start feeling joy.  My sister and I have grown closer since her divorce, and I think we are both making an effort at our relationship.  We are still polar opposites in so many ways, but I think we are both becoming more accepting of our differences.  Instead of waiting for us to develop this incredibly affectionate relationship, I am trying to appreciate that we are two distinctly different individuals who just happen to be sisters.
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I don’t think I knew what haricots verts were until I was in my late twenties.  I had a friend who was a Francophile and made them for dinner one night.  Simply because of their fancy-sounding name, they seemed so much more appealing than regular ol’ green beans.  And if fact they do have a much more complex flavor than their American counterpart.   They scream spring weather to me, and so I made this recipe a few weeks ago in hopes that it would help Mother Nature induce warmer climes.  It’s a nice, crunchy vegetable side that is packed with flavor from the garlic, hazelnuts, and orange.
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Haricots Verts and Snow Peas with Hazelnut and Orange
Adapted from Ottolenghi:  The Cookbook

14 oz. (about 2 cups) haricots verts
14 oz. (about 2 cups) snow peas
1/2 cup unskinned hazelnuts
1 orange
3/4 oz. chives, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. hazelnut oil (or another nut oil, if unavailable, or simply olive oil)
coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Using a small, sharp knife, trim the stalk ends off the beans and the snow peas, keeping the two separate.
2.  Bring plenty of unsalted water to a boil in a large saucepan.  You need lots of space for the beans, as this is crucial for preserving their color.  Blanch the beans in the water for 4 minutes, then drain into a colander and run them under plenty of tap water until cold.  Leave to drain and dry.  Repeat with the snow peas, but blanch for only 1 minute.
3.  While the beans are cooking, scatter the hazelnuts over a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 minutes.  Leave until cool enough to handle, then rub them in a clean kitchen towel to get rid of most of the skin.  Chop the nuts with a large, sharp knife.  They should be quite rough; some can even stay whole.
4.  Using a zester, zest the orange, being careful to avoid the bitter white pith.
5.  To assemble the dish, mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, toss gently, then taste and adjust the seasoning.  Serve at room temperature.

 

 

 

 

 

Nutella Scones

DSC_4843I was feeling very discombobulated last week.  Serving on jury duty in the middle of Long Island meant I had a two-hour commute every morning and evening.  I would leave home at 7 a.m. and not return until almost 7 p.m.  For some people, this might describe a normal day.  Regardless, it is a long day and doesn’t leave much time, if any, for self-care, exercise, etc.  Up until my first week of jury duty, I had been cherishing the fact that I was finally making self-care a routine part of my day.  I recently experienced a mental shift:  instead of dreading yoga, I was looking forward to going to classes twice a week.  So two weeks of not having time for this (or any exercise) left me feeling very frazzled and anxious.

By the time I got home at the end of last week, I realized I was experiencing emotions I hadn’t had in almost 6 weeks.  Nothing seemed to sate my overwhelming feelings—I wanted to eat garbage and didn’t care what it tasted like.  I tried a few bites of several different things but nothing seemed to fill the void.  That should have been my first sign that something was off.  I felt like a foreigner in my own body.  I thought some mindless television might do the trick, but I tried a few of my favorite sitcoms and that didn’t numb the pain either.  It’s a very helpless sensation when you can’t figure out what it is you need in a specific moment.  It’s like trying to figure out what a crying baby needs, but you’re the baby and you feel like you should know what your 38-year-old self needs or wants.  I eventually curled up in bed with a book and decided to take some deep breaths to quiet my mind.
DSC_4819I reminded myself that the crazy two weeks were over and that my normal schedule would resume next week.  I really wanted to beat myself up for feeling so thrown-off after just two weeks of not having any free time.  But I stopped myself.  Given the circumstances, I think I did a pretty good job of staying centered.  I ate healthy and focused on maintaining a positive outlook despite the horrible things I was listening to every day in the courtroom.  I went to yoga class Saturday morning and, man, was it hard.  I felt a lot of anger doing many of the poses, but I told myself I was detoxifying all of the feelings from the previous two weeks.  I let the anger rise to the surface and then watched it disappear.  And that is one of the things I love so much about yoga:  it forces you to stay present and not react to feelings as they arise.  By the time class was over, I felt reset and ready for the weekend.
DSC_4824I love Nutella, and believe it would taste good on or in almost any baked good, so I was eager to try this recipe.  It’s another one from the Baked cookbook.  I’ve had much success with the recipes of theirs I’ve tried thus far, so I was confident that this would be yet another recipe victory.  However, I thought these were just mediocre.  Although, my disclaimer is that I’m not a huge scone fan so that might be part of it.  Mr. K, on the other hand, loves these scones.  He thinks I am crazy for giving them a so-so rating.  Perhaps they just needed to be slathered with a bit more Nutella and I would have come around on these.  Let me know what you think!
DSC_4827Nutella Scones
Adapted from Baked Explorations

Yield:  6 to 8 scones

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 large egg
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup Nutella

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and place the rack in the center.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2.  In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt until combined.
3.  Add the butter.  Use your fingertips to rub it into the flour until the butter is pea size and the mixture is coarse.
4.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and cream.
5.  Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until the dough just comes together.  Gently and briefly knead the dough with your hands.  Add the toasted hazelnuts and knead gently  to incorporate.
6.  Flatten the dough into a rectangle approximately 6 to 12 inches and spread 1/4 cup of the Nutella on top in a crisscross pattern.  Roll the dough up to make a cylinder about 6 inches long, turn it on its end, and gently flatten it into a disk about 1 3/4 inches high.  Do not overwork the dough.
7.  Cut the dough into 6 or 8 wedges and place them on the prepared baking sheet.
8.  Bake the scones for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a scone comes out clean.  Do not overbake.
9.  Transfer the scones to a wire rack to cool completely.

Assemble the Nutella Scones
1.  Heat the remaining 1/4 cup Nutella in a microwave until pourable, about 10 seconds on high.
2.  Pierce the tops of the scones a few times with a fork.  Use a spoon to drip the warm Nutella in a zigzag pattern over the tops of the hot scones.
3.  Transfer them to a refrigerator to set for 5 minutes, then serve immediately.

Homemade Nutella

DSC_4451Mr. K and I have been trying to conceive for almost a year now.  Anyone who has struggled with this knows that it can be an emotional rollercoaster.  At our highest point, we were ecstatic with the news that I was officially pregnant (I miscarried six weeks later), and our lowest point was my 3-day hospitalization from a procedure that went horribly wrong.  And there have been many numb days in between.  When we first started trying, we were extremely confident that it wouldn’t take us long to become pregnant.  I’m sure that’s what everyone thinks in the beginning.  And although we remain cautiously optimistic (my husband likes using that phrase), we have had many discussions about what our lives might look like if we aren’t successful:  We’ll travel more!  We can move to another country!  We’ll get a dog!  Or a cat!  And yet.
DSC_4415And yet I can’t help but wonder about everything we will miss out on if it turns out we can’t have kids.  I know, I know, there are pros and cons to both lifestyles.  And part of me is still scared to death to have children.  I have read so many articles about parents being less happy than childless couples, marriages being strained due to kids, and financial stress due to all of the added expenses of raising a child.  And yet.  You can’t fight biology.  I want to have a child.  I was listening to a Slate podcast on parenting last week (iTunes started downloading this podcast onto my computer a few weeks ago and I didn’t question it) and one of the hosts was talking about her nightly routine.  She stated that between the hours of 6 and 9 p.m. it was complete chaos in her house.  Dinner has to be made, homework has to be supervised, baths have to be given, stories have to be read, and then bedtime arrives.  As stressful as all of it sounded, I found myself wanting that chaos in my life.  I thought to myself, “What are all of us childless adults doing with our time?”  It all just seemed so pointless without kids in the picture.  Ok, maybe not pointless.  But I definitely have days when it all feels meaningless.  There’s just something about living for another human being that sounds so freeing.  You can’t be stuck in your head all day long when you have a child to take care of.  As Louis C.K. once said, “There’s no time for depression when you have kids.”  Ok, there must be a little time.
DSC_4419Why have I never made homemade Nutella before?  It’s sooooo easy, dear readers!  I have loved Nutella ever since first discovering it while studying abroad in England.  I think I’ve eaten my weight in banana-Nutella crepes over the years.  But guess what?  This version is EVEN BETTER.  Without additives and chemicals masking the flavor, the milk chocolate and hazelnuts are much more intense.  And it doesn’t have that waxy residue that the store-bought stuff has.  With Valentine’s Day coming up, this would make a nice homemade gift.  Your Valentine will be forever grateful.
DSC_4432Homemade Nutella
Adapted from The Splendid Table

1 cup hazelnuts
12 oz. milk chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon salt

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2.  Spread the hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for about 12 minutes, until they’ve browned a little and the skins are blistered a little.
3.  Wrap them in a kitchen towel and rub vigorously to remove as much loose skin as possible. Let cool completely.
4.  Melt the chocolate in a saucepan over gently simmering water.  Stir until smooth.  Let cool completely.
5.  In a food processor, grind the hazelnuts until they form a paste.  Add the oil, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla and salt and continue processing until the mixture is as smooth as possible.
6.  Add the melted chocolate and blend well.
7.  Place into airtight container.  Mixture will keep at room temperature for 2 weeks.

Caramel Nut Tart

DSCF2812It only seemed fitting that my first post would be for something sweet.  My grandma had a cafe in the small town I grew up in, and she made the best desserts.  Pies, cakes, cookies, donuts, you name it.  Given our German heritage, I definitely inherited her propensity for sweets.  Seeing that Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away and I am a pecan pie fiend, making a take on this ubiquitous pie seemed perfect.  Like many Americans, Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  It is not affiliated with a religion and even better: it’s all about the food.  Since I moved to New York, I have definitely missed getting together with my family to celebrate.  More times than not, I have eaten my Thanksgiving meal at a restaurant simply because the thought of making tons of food for two people seems kind of silly.  Some meals have been better than others.  One of my most memorable Thanksgiving restaurant meals was at Jane.  It was the first time I had ever tasted brussels sprouts and liked them.  In fact, I lurrrrved these.  They were salty, crunchy and were blackened the tiniest bit which gave them a nice charred quality.  I still remember one of my first Thanksgivings in NYC.  My friend and I went to the Pink Tea Cup for a delicious meal of turkey and all the fixin’s.  But to my horror they didn’t have pecan pie on the menu.  This, of course, was sacrilege.  So we paid our bill and I proceeded to stop at every grocery store we passed on the way home to get my pecan pie fix.  What, no one has ANY pecan pies left at 5pm on Thanksgiving??!  I wouldn’t be thwarted.  Once we arrived home, I ended up calling a nearby diner and ordered a piece of pecan pie to be delivered.  I’m sure I had to order something else to meet the minimum delivery requirements.  The pie turned out to be very mediocre.  But I laid on the couch and rubbed my belly with a smile on my face.

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I have been wanting to make this Caramel Nut Tart recipe ever since finding it back in 2009 on The Splendid Table’s website.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with TST, it is a fantastic NPR show that I started listening to back in 2002 when I was living in Minnesota.  It is hosted by Lynne Rossetto Kasper, who happens to be one of my food heroes.  She is a never-ending well of knowledge about all things food related.  And you know how rubbing behind a dog’s ears puts them in a trance?  Well Lynne’s voice does the same thing to me.  Subscribe to the podcast if you haven’t already.

I didn’t fall in love with this tart right away.  But it definitely grew on me over the course of the week.  The super-buttery, salty/sweet shortbread crust is what kept me coming back for more.  I’m a sucker for all things buttery and I love the salty/sweet combo.  In fact, I would compare this to a sweet pecan pie sitting on top of a rich shortbread cookie.  The rich, buttery crust pairs really nicely with the crunchy, sweet topping.   If I made this again, I would even drizzle a little dark chocolate over the top of the finished tart.

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Caramel Nut Tart
Adapted from The Splendid Table

Makes an 11-inch tart or 8-10 servings

One of the best things about this tart is that you don’t have to roll out any dough.  Just use your fingers to spread it into your tart pan.  In fact, I don’t own a tart pan so I used a pie pan.  Voila.  The pastry can be made several days in advance.  But once you make the filling, it needs to be poured into the pastry and baked immediately.  The top of this tart looks like a shiny, beautiful medley of mixed nuts.  Perfect for your Thanksgiving table.

Pastry:
2-1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks cold, unsalted butter, cut into chunks
3 cold large egg yolks, plus 3 tablespoons ice water (more as needed)

Filling:
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup firm-packed brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup pecans
2/3 cup hazelnuts
1/2 cup whole walnuts
1/3 cup shelled, salted pistachios
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 tablespoons heavy cream

1. To make the pastry, put all the dry ingredients in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Run a few seconds to blend.  Add the cold butter and process until mixture resembles peas.  Turn off the machine, sprinkle dough with yolk and water mixture and pulse until dough begins to gather into clumps.  You should be able to squeeze it together easily.  If dry, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon water and pulse to blend.  Gently gather into a ball, wrap, and chill 1 hour to overnight.
2. Grease an 11-inch fluted, false-bottomed tart pan.  Roll out dough to a little less than 1/8-inch thickness and fit into pan.  Double over dough at sides.  Trim away excess.  Chill tart shell 1 hour to overnight.3. To bake, prheat oven to 400°F.  Line tart shell with foil and weight either with dry rice or beans.  Bake 10 minutes.  Remove liner, prick botton of shell with a fork, and bake another 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool.
4. To finish tart, preheat oven to 350°F.  Place baked tart shell on a baking sheet. Combine the second quantity of butter, brown sugar, honey, and white sugar in a 2-quart heavy saucepan.
5. Set the saucepan over medium-high heat and stir with a whisk until it comes to a boil.  Boil one minute, or until thick and large bubbles form.  Stir in nuts, quickly remove from heat and stir in cream.  Immediately pour the mixture into tart shell.  Spread out evently to cover the entire surface of the pastry.
6. Bake on baking sheet for about 20 minutes or until bubbly.  Remove from oven and cool on a rack.  Serve at room temperature.

Can be refrigerated for up to one week.