Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Three Ways to be Nutty On National Goof-Off Day; Pasta, Salad and Cookies Are Seriously Easy To Make While 'Goofing Off'

For the past week, a small can of almond paste I purchased a couple of weeks ago kept falling out of the pantry whenever I opened it. I took it as a sign: either it was begging me to use it or the pantry needed to be cleaned. Of course it was the latter but it was more fun  not to clean and use the product for the recipe I had originally intended it for: Almond Macaroons.

Anyone familiar with my family knows that my husband is a bit nutty about nuts, his favorite being the cashew, but to be honest the rest of our family are just as guilty of loving the hard-shelled fruit in almost any form. I especially love them on a salad. I decided to make this a 'nutty' day and make a complete meal using three varieties. As I was collecting the ingredients, I wondered if there was such a thing as a National Nut Day because if there wasn't, I was about to declare one.

Well folks, there actually is an official nut holiday and it's celebrated each year (not sure by whom??) on October 22nd. Just in case you're wondering, today (March 22) is National Goof-Off Day, tomorrow is National Chip and Dip Day and Thursday is National Chocolate Covered Raisin Day. I've attached a website from Hallmark Channel which lists all these 'important holidays' (does Hallmark make cards for the occasions??) and you might want to check the site the next time you feel the need for an excuse to take a day off.  Ahhh,.....our tax dollars at work!

Even though the actual nut holiday wouldn't be celebrated until the fall, I was undeterred in my pursuit to make a pasta, a salad and a batch of cookies using walnuts, pecans and almonds in that order.
The recipes are a from a variety of sources changed up a bit to suit what I actually had on hand but the changes were minimal and this meal as a whole might make a great Palm Sunday or Easter menu.

Here's the official list of 'National' holidays. Recipes follow.

Walnuts and Parsley Pesto Pasta
Developed from the NY Times food columnist Mark Bittman 

1 cup shelled walnuts + 1/4 cup not added to food processor
1/2 cup loosely packed parsley leaves, washed and dried
1 clove garlic
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound linguine or spaghetti

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt. 
  • Combine walnuts, parsley and garlic in a food processor and turn machine on gradually adding enough oil so that mixture forms a creamy paste. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Put additional 1/4 cup of olive oil in saute pan with reserved walnuts and toss until heated.
  • Cook pasta al dente, drain it and reserve a little cooking water. 
  • Add pesto sauce, walnut and olive oil mix and toss, adding more water if too thick.
  • Top with fresh Parmesan cheese.

Glazed Pecans, Apple Slices and Goat Cheese on Baby Spinach 
I saw this salad on NY1 Television station cooking segment here in New York. It looked so delicious and easy, I decided to give it a try. They suggested romaine lettuce, blue cheese and walnuts. I made some substitutions. 

2 cups walnut halves (I used pecans)
1/4 cup maple syrup
Salt (for nuts)
Romaine lettuce (I used baby spinach)
Crumbled blue cheese (I used crumbled goat cheese)
Dressing: 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 2-3 tbs apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, black pepper

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bring a pot of water to a boil for blanching the nuts. Add the 2 cups of pecan or walnut halves to the boiling water and let those boil for about a minute.
  • Use a slotted spoon to scoop them into a mixing bowl and add the maple syrup and salt to taste. Pecans or walnuts need to be well drained before adding the maple syrup.
  • Toss the nuts and maple syrup and spread out on a baking tray placing it into the preheated oven. Bake nuts for about 10 minutes stirring every now and then. Cool when done.
  • Whisk the vegetable oil and apple cider vinegar with a little dollop of Dijon mustard, black pepper and a small amount of maple syrup for the dressing.
  • Combine lettuce and sliced apples adding dressing to coat, Top with some crumbled blue cheese and 1/2 cup of toasted nuts. Reserve extra for another salad.

Almond Macaroons
This is from a January 2004 edition of Martha Stewart Living and the reason I purchased the almond paste in the first place. A delicious and light cookie to finish off the meal.

1 can (8 oz) almond paste
1 cup confectioners sugar
Pinch of salt
2 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sliced almonds

  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
  • Place almond paste, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl and beat for about 3 minutes until mixture looks crumbly.
  • Add egg whites and vanilla and beat for another 3 minutes until mix becomes creamy and thick.
  • Drop even round teaspoons onto parchment about 2 inches apart (cookies will spread slightly) placing2-3 sliced of sliced almonds on each mound.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until edges are light brown, turning tray once.
  • Remove from parchment and when cool, dust with confectioners sugar.

1 comment:

  1. Everything looks delicious mom!! Can't wait to try all these recipes out!