California walnuts

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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.

Walnuts are one of my favourite nuts – they always remind me of my mum’s Nestlé Toll House cookies… but they sometimes get a bad rap because of their high fat content.  In fact, walnuts contain “good” fats — polyunsaturated fat, which contains essential omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts are also “energy dense” which means you will only need a small amount to feel satisfied and full.  The California Walnut website contains some interesting information about the history of the walnut.  Did you know, for example that in Medieval times, walnuts were considered a medicine?  Muscular aches and pains were treated using a potion containing walnut leaves and walnuts were also considered useful in soothing the digestive system.  In the 16th and 17th centuries, various plants were prescribed due to their resemblance to a particular body part and the walnut with its close resemblance with the brain was used to treat head ailments, boost intellect and to calm emotions.  In Asian cultures today, walnuts are still considered a brain food.

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:

I was sure mine would turn out neater than the boys’ but in actual fact, these are “messy” cake/cookies. Still tasted wonderful:

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:

(Am I the only person who thinks “Fuzzy Pumper Barber Shop” when I see this?  Or am I aging myself terribly?  PS: Mum and dad – I REALLY wanted that when I was little…)

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.

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Butternut squash and walnut pasta sauce

Ingredients:
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

Directions:
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!

32 thoughts on “California walnuts”

  1. Ha ha ha on the Play-Doh! I used to play with that stuff…many years ago. I am sure your dish was yummy, especially with the homemade pasta. I love most anything with butternut squash and nuts.

    Reply
  2. I totally remember that commercial! Sigh. I wanted an Easy Bake oven too, but my mom wouldn’t let me – said I’d electrocute myself! Lucky girl to get all those walnuts – and you made great use of them, I must say.

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  3. And walnuts would have been GREAT in that pasta sauce… I love the Sicilian pasta with Pistachios in the sauce…. I think you could also dust the pasta when coming out with cornmeal…that’s what grandma used to do, and then it wouldn’t stick, and the cornmeal didn’t stick too much too it, either… not enough to change the flavour of whatever it was added to…. and now, finally, you have your own Fuzzy Pumper Barber Shop! Isn’t being grown up empowering! I STILL go by the Barbie shelf. Love those dolls.
    Thanks!
    🙂
    Valerie

    Reply
  4. The pasta looks delicious, Mardi. I haven’t worked with butternut squash since I learned I have some weird contact allergy to the raw squash, but this recipe makes me want to put on some gloves and cook with it again.

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  5. OMG I think I had that barbershop! Or a friend did… either way I had totally forgotten about it.

    I have the same kitchen aid attachment, and mine always clumps too. I dont’ even think it’s a matter of letting it rest, because it comes out of the thing all smushed together.

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    • Well I didn’t rest the dough at all so that might have had something to do with it. Also, we cut the pasta with a knife and it was messy and stuck together at the ends. next time, kitchen scissors. In any case, it separated during cooking so that was good.

      Reply
  6. Glad you have finally got your very own Fuzzy Pumper. Have fun with your attachment. The spaghetti looks wonderful. I’m cooking your Prawn and feta pasta AGAIN tonight. We love it. xxx

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  7. There is actually a much better pasta attachment for the kitchen aid that I bought my husband a couple of years ago and we use constantly and the kids love to use as well (with supervision!).
    I will make sure to put some pics online as I can’t remember the name of it offhand.
    I always wanted an easy-bake oven, too, and never got one…..

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  8. In Italy we made a pasta sauce with walnuts and gorgonzola. It was amazing.

    I’m impressed with your pasta. I’m not going to say aneeeeetheeeng about letting it rest, though…nootheeeng. I say nootheeng.

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  9. mmmm . . . love walnuts! we like ours in greek yogurt with honey and dried cherries/apricots. you’ve gotten some great things in your media packs!

    Reply

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