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Going Nuts

Jonas Tana Walnuts CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)I don’t understand people who don’t like walnuts. To me they their woodsy, slightly bitter flavor is delicious, unlike any other nut in my nut-stocked pantry (the amount of raw almonds that Padraic manages to swipe on a single Trader Joe’s run astounds me 🙂 ) As much as I love almonds, walnuts seem special somehow — maybe because I’m more likely to cook something special with them, versus eat them raw, or maybe it’s just because they’re expensive.

As it happens, I recently put 1/2 cup of walnuts to use in Tyler Florence’s recipe for banana bread. I’d wager that most avid home cooks have a go-to recipe for banana bread, and recently this has become mine, after years of following my great-grandmother’s handwritten recipe. (Her’s includes a hearty helping of bisquick, which makes me smile.) Tyler Florence’s is a bit more subtle, dividing the 4 bananas into 2 batches — the first is whipped with sugar to form a “banana cream” as the foundation for the rest of the batter, while the remaining 2 bananas are mashed into a chunky purée to be folded in at the end. The result is an especially sweet, moist, and light cake enhanced, of course, by the addition of warm, toasted WALNUTS.

Speaking of walnuts, let’s pause for a moment to ponder these infinitely adaptable blondies — except that I think I’ve landed upon the best version, and it involves a rich combination of almond extract, toasted walnuts, and chocolate chips. Here’s the breakdown:

Blondies
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

8 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Pinch salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup walnuts
1 cup chocolate chips

Tools

Square baking pan
Large spatula
Mixing bowls
Measuring cups
Measuring spoons

  • Grease a square baking pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Stir together the melted butter and brown sugar.
  • Stir in the large egg, the almond extract, and the salt.
  • Stir in the all-purpose flour until just combined.
  • Chop, measure, and toast the walnuts, folding them into the batter along with the chocolate chips.*
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes. Gooey is good 🙂

*Adding a tablespoon of flour to the walnuts and chocolate chips helps evenly distribute them, preventing them from sinking to the bottom.

I’ll make this my last mention in this little walnut eulogy — and guess what, it’s not a baked good. Far better, it’s a one-bowl pasta dinner with a sauce predicated entirely on the combination of toasted walnuts, butter, olive oil,  heavy cream, and Parmesan cheese. The result is a subtle, buttery taste with a distinctive walnut flair. I wrote out the entire recipe below, only to realize that I’d already posted it on my blog. I guess I just love it that much. Enjoy 🙂

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