It’s always flattering to receive emails asking if you would like to review so and so a product, even more so when it’s something you really would buy yourself. That tends to be my rule of thumb when accepting sample products or attending events as “media” – would I want to buy/ attend it anyway? The folks at Faye Clack Communications have been kind enough to send me some wonderful products in the past – avocados and apples – so when I received an email about California Walnuts, I was thrilled to accept their offer of a media pack, including some fresh walnuts.
What I like about cooking with walnuts is their extreme versatility – they can be used in both savory and sweet recipes, adding not only flavour but also a great texture to any dish. Unlike other nuts, walnuts tend to be not overly crunchy, which means they can work in things like pasta sauces and salads without jarring the texture too much. Sometimes walnuts can be bitter, indicating they’re a little past their prime but the pack that arrived on my doorstep a few weeks ago were plump and golden, obviously at their peak of freshness.
With my precious pound or so of walnuts, I made not one but two batches of inside-out carrot cake cookies – once with my boys’ cooking club and once for our Easter dessert:
Next up, some pasta sauce. I bought one of the Kitchen Aid pasta attachments in February and if you can believe it, we still had not used it. Easter long weekend was the perfect time so we cranked out a batch of spaghetti:
Image courtesy of 70s Child blog (how appropriate!)
We definitely still have some practice to do re: getting the pasta to stop sticking together (perhaps if I weren’t so impatient and gave the pasta a chance to rest, it might be better!!!) but overall we were pleased with the result:
The sauce is based on a Gourmet recipe for pasta with butternut squash and sage. Here’s my version.
Butternut squash and walnut pasta sauce
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into small cubes (about 2 inches)
3/4 cup water
handful fresh chopped parsley
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped plus extra for garnish
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan plus additional for sprinkling
Cook onion in oil in a large nonstick skillet over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden. Finely chop squash pieces in a food processor and add to onion with water and salt to taste. Simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes, or until squash is tender. Add parsley and walnuts and simmer a few minutes more. Just before you’re going to serve the sauce (I mixed it into the pasta), stir in the cheese. Serve, topping with additional walnut pieces, cheese and extra sprinkle of parsley if desired.
I loved this dish, though it was a bit underseasoned but the next day, with a big old glug of olive oil and some cracked black pepper and sea salt, it was perfect. The slight sweetness of the walnuts worked well with the squash and it was a pretty spring dish. Sadly our stash of walnuts is gone, but I will be on the lookout for more very soon!