Nutty Over 10 Nuts and Yes! That Includes Chestnuts

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Unless you are on a low fat diet or have a nut allergen issue, you’ll probably find a few of these nuts in your pantry at home or on your plate at your favorite restaurant. I love nuts and I could probably live on them for an extended time but I recognize that even with nuts, everything is best in moderation. Here’s my list of theTop 10 nuts to pantry stock for your cooking, baking and snacking needs, saving my favorite for last just in time for the holiday season.

  1. Brazil Nuts
  2. Macadamia Nuts
  3. Almonds
  4. Pecans
  5. Walnuts
  6. Cashews
  7. Hazelnuts
  8. Pistachio Nuts
  9. Pignoli (Pine) Nuts
  10. Chestnuts

#10 Chestnuts – I love Chestnuts or Castagne as they are called in Italy. They are the classic comfort food when it comes to nuts, putting us in a good mood and reminding us that the holiday season is here. I add them to our Thanksgiving stuffing and make sure they always have a place on our Christmas dessert table.

I have fond memories of my in-laws loving chestnuts as much as we do today. Tom’s mother would inspect each and every chestnut in a bulk basket at the produce store for the good ones. His Dad would get his handy “chestnut knife” ready. In actuality, it was a simple pearing knife but we knew that the task would not continue without this special tool which was perfect for marking an “X” on each chestnut before roasting them on a salted pan. They loved to have a few chestnuts dipped in a small glass of red wine at the end of Christmas dinner. Personally, I’m good with a buttery salty coating and a glass of egg nog as I stare at the large basket of fruit, feeling guilty but not enough to pass up this seasonal treat. How do I like chestnuts best? In a simple little brown paper bag so I can make believe I am enjoying them while window shopping in the Big Apple.

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We even brought our little love of chestnuts to Pinocchio’s Ice Cream when we operated the store on Sanibel Island. The first Friday in December is the Sanibel Luminary Stroll. It’s a festive time for island businesses to kick off the season with complimentary food, drink, song and cheer. Giving the little bags of Chestnuts to our loyal Customers was memorable. Although a few patrons admitted to never eating them, (those are the fans who came back for seconds) many Customers shared their own treasured memories of preparing and sharing chestnuts with family and friends.

 

Enjoy eating your Chestnuts. I hope you cherish every bite this holiday season.

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Here are the lyrics to “The Christmas Song”

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yuletide carols
Being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like eskimos
Everybody knows
A turkey and some mistletoe
Can help to make the season bright
Tiny tots, with their eyes all aglow
Will find it hard to sleep, tonight
They know that Santa’s on his way
He’s loading lots of toys and goodies
On his sleigh
And every mother’s child
Is gonna spy
To see if reindeer really know how to fly…
And so I’m offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although it’s been said
Many times, many ways
Merry Christmas, to you
They know that Santa’s on his way
He’s loading lots of toys and goodies
On his sleigh
And every mother’s child
Is gonna spy
To see if reindeer really know how to fly…
So I’m offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two…
Although it’s been said
Many times, many ways
Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas, to you
Merry Christmas

The Christmas Song” (commonly subtitled “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” or, as it was originally subtitled, “Merry Christmas to You) was written in 1945 by Bob Wells and Mel Tormé.
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Lemon Risotto Cakes

Lemon Risotto Cakes with Fresh Basil, Mozzarella, Toasted Pine Nuts and Diced Fresh Tomato Brushetta

Seasoned Chef Recipes

Seasoned Chef Recipes

I am always looking for a beautiful light starch to accompany a great piece of meat or fish. Risotto is just that starch. Although it appears easy to prepare, risotto takes time, patience and an eventual mastery in how much broth to use in making this creamy moist side dish.  Trust me, it’s worth the time and effort to make this northern Italian staple.

Parmesan cheese, mushroom, truffle and lemon risotto are a few varieties of risotto commonly found in markets. Depending on the risotto flavor, each variety is cooked in a vegetable or chicken broth.

The recipe for these risotto cakes can be prepared ahead of time and warmed when ready to serve which makes them a great catering option for holidays and parties. The recipe below makes 12 cakes.

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INGREDIENTS:

A box of Risotto – I prefer Vita Verde Tuscan Country Milanese Risotto – 10.5 oz.

One onion diced and sautéed in olive oil

Chicken bouillon

4 fragrant fresh lemons

For décor, basil leaves, pignoli nuts, brushetta diced tomato, balsamic glaze and small mozzarella balls

RECIPE:                                                              

Dice and sauté the onion in olive oil. Add salt, pepper and a little paprika to brown the onion. Set aside.

Cut lemons in half. Juice the lemons.  Add lemon juice to the water so that package directions for the water liquid remain the same.  (Another words, I substitute some of the water with the fresh lemon juice).

Prepare Risotto according to package directions. Add onion to the bouillon and water mixture.

Cover and cook on medium heat 15 – 18 minutes.

Make sure the risotto does not lose moisture during the cooking process. If it does, then slightly lower the heat and add a little more water.

Let risotto rest 3 – 5 minutes.

Spray a muffin tin with nonstick spray.

Fill the tins with risotto and bake in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Let cool. Turn the risotto cakes upside down.

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FROM TUSCANY WITH LOVE: PICI PASTA

Moderate Recipes

Moderate Recipes

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Do you recall the first time that you ate spaghetti as a child?  If you were like me, then the answer would probably be NO. I was so young and sitting in a high chair that I cannot recall that memorable moment but I can tell you that I begged my mother, my grandmother and my aunt  to serve it to me plain, with a little butter and in (post high chair) time with some pecorino romano cheese. I did not want spaghetti sauce on my pasta. As I grew up into a young lady of 6 or 7 years, I would be adventurous and ask for sauce “on the side”.  I still do at times but there are moments today that can only be captured by a good bowl of Bolognese sauce.

Regardless of the sauce and pasta dressings, I waited to travel to Italy with my husband before I fell in love with pici pasta, traditional pasta from the Tuscany region of Siena.  OK. I love all pasta, especially fresh pasta like  thin angel hair, spaghetti, linguine and bucatini but there is something so delicious about hand rolled pici pasta that I wonder why it is not served more frequently in restaurants in the states.  Pici pasta is similar to Bucatini but the strands are thick long solid pasta shapes made from dough that is primarily water, flour and on occasion, egg. Each pici strand is individually hand rolled and no two strands are the same.  Here is a recipe for preparing pici pasta that our friends at La Ferreira in Loro Ciuffena shared with us.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

100 grams of flour (96g = ¾ cup so add a little more flour than ¾ cup)

¼ cup water

1 egg (optional)

Sea Salt – ¼ tsp total for both pasta and sauce

Fresh Ground Pepper

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

¼ cup Crushed Garlic

1  cup Marzano or Grape Tomatoes

3 – 4 springs fresh Basil

Shaved Pecorino Romano Cheese

Moderate Recipes

Moderate Recipes

HOW TO MAKE PICI:  

Slowly mix some of the water and flour until you can make a well in the center to add the egg. Continue to mix the flour, water and egg mixture.  Add a dash of sea salt. At this point you may not need all of the remaining water. Use only enough water to incorporate the flour into the dough mixture.post 401 image 1

Knead for 8 – 10 minutes into a ball

Place in a bowl and cover with a damp towel

Let it rest at room temperature for 15 minutes

Generously flour your surface to prevent the dough from sticking.

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Roll the dough until it is ¼ inch thick.

Cut into long strips.

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Take each strand and roll it back and forth with the front of your fingers to create long pici.

Add a little flour on the rolled pici to prevent sticking.

Boil water with a pinch of salt and a cap of olive oil.

Cook Pici for 8 – 10 minutes until cooked ‘al dente’.  Do NOT overcook pici pasta.

Rinse well and set aside.

Moderate Recipes

Moderate Recipes

SIMPLE PICI SAUCE:

Heat a frying pan with1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil.

Season the oil in the frying pan with salt, pepper, crushed garlic and fresh basil.

Prepare 1 cup Grape or Marzano tomatoes by cutting them in half, length-wise.

Add tomatoes to the frying pan.

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(Note:  Some use grape sized tomatoes.  If you can get them, the Marzano tomatoes are wonderful. They are a little larger and longer than grape tomatoes and really burst with flavor.)

Reduce the heat to med-low setting.  Add cooked pici pasta. Add more olive oil – just enough to prevent the pasta from sticking to the pan.  Pan fry pici no more than 4 – 5 minutes.

pici past image 4                              pici pasta image 5                                                           Plate the pici pasta.                                              Top with fresh basil and drizzle with a little more olive oil.

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Shave Pecorino Romano Cheese on top and enjoy.

Seasoning food with Chutneys, Aioli, Pesto and More

Seasoning food with Chutneys, Aioli, Pesto and more

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Top Row: Avocado Guacamole, Sun Dried Tomato Pesto, Muffolata Tapenade,

Bottom Row: Mango Chutney, Basil Pesto, Lemon Herb Aioli

Preparing memorable food such as delicious tapas, great sandwiches and pairing our favorite meal with unforgettable accompaniments is not accidental. We invite you to think out of the foodie box, look beyond the beloved mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup and relish and sample delicious alternatives sure to please both sweet and savory palates with chutneys, aioli, jams, pesto and vegetable tapenades. Here is a brief description on what they are and how to use them in your favorite foods:

  •  Aioli – A French sauce originating from Provencal cuisine, aioli is served with meat, fish and vegetables. Aioli is made with lemon, egg, garlic and olive oil and has a similar texture to mayonnaise but with less heaviness. Try lemon herb aioli on a Bavarian Pretzel bread sandwich layered with Roast Beef and Cheddar Cheese.
  • Chutney – Similar in consistency to jelly and relish, chutney consists of fruits and spices. Chutney typically lends a sweet and sour accoutrement to sandwiches, meats, fish, cheese, rice and cous cous but there are some hot and spicy variations available to accompany curry dishes.   Stonewall Kitchen offers a complete line of peach chutney, apple cranberry chutney and their award winning Old Farmhouse chutney with peaches, apples, raisins, cranberries, apricots and ginger.
  • Guacamole – Touted as a healthy alternative to mayonnaise, this avocado condiment is not just for the burrito or tortilla chip lover. Guacamole pairs well on a Turkey and Swiss Ciabatta, in a southwest salad or with grilled chicken and mango salsa.
  • Jam – Similarly sweet and delicious but different than its Jelly relative, Jams are preserved whole fruits while jelly is made from fruit chucks and pieces. Visibly different than jelly whose appearance is even and uniform, Jam is spreadable fruit, often made with less sugar and has a chunky texture in appearance. Thanks to purveyors of specialty foods, jam flavors are not limited to strawberry, peach and grape. Two of my favorite Stonewall jams are their wild Maine blueberry and raspberry peach champagne. Braswell’s European jams are another good find. Try their sweet Vidalia onion or chocolate peppermint jam on hot croissants, seasonal crepes and Panini French Toast.
  • Pesto – Traditionally, Pesto is an Italian sauce made of basil, garlic and olive oil and sometimes pine nuts and pecorino cheese. Alternative pestos are made with roasted bell peppers or sweet sun dried tomato. Pesto is typically used as a pasta sauce and as a brushetta topping appetizer for crusty crostini bread but it works just as well on a chewy Ciabatta caprese sandwich or salad of fresh tomato, mozzarella and basil.
  • Tapenade – A smooth paste made with chopped olives, capers, olive oil, garlic and herbs. Tapenade is as versatile a condiment in Mediterranean kitchens as ketchup is to the US household. It is served on bread as an appetizer or paired with Italian meats and cheeses for a light lunch. Tapenade is also used in soups and sauces.

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Vanilla infused French toast with Stonewall Kitchens Wild Maine Blueberry Jam

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Seasoned Olive Foccacia Bread with Pesto, Relish & Tapenade

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Brushetta Toast with Basil Pesto, diced Tomatoes, fresh Basil and shaved Parmigiano