by Kate Heyhoe
Have you noticed that hazelnuts have become the darlings of restaurant chefs these days?
I had my first real experience with hazelnuts a few years back, at Chez Panisse, Alice Waters' culinary landmark in Berkeley. Of course, I'd tasted hazelnuts in rich European tortes, and I'd dressed salads and vegetables with delicate hazelnut oil, but it took Chez Panisse to reveal the flavorful impact these exquisite nuts can have. There, as a prelude to my main course, the toasted and slightly crushed hazelnuts adorned a salad of pears, mesclun greens and goat cheese— the way a perfect string of pearls adds elegance and sophistication to the basic black dress.
Today, I'm seeing hazelnuts crop up in everything from crumb coatings on fish to ingredients in ice cream. Sweet and flavorful hazelnuts have a thin, slightly bitter brown skin that should be removed before use, as discussed below. I keep a bag of prepared hazelnuts in the freezer, ready to plop into a dish whenever I get so inspired. They're not cheap, but you need only a small amount to set a recipe on its wheels, so to speak.
If you can't find hazelnuts, ask for filberts—another name for the same thing (but I have to admit that "Hazelnut-Apple Salad" sounds much more appealing than "Apples and Filberts"). The name "filbert" derives from "full beard"—referring to those hazelnut varieties in which the husk covers the entire nut. It also is linked to St. Philibert, whose holy day of August 22 corresponds to the early ripening of filberts in England.
Get Ahead: In two weeks we'll make my recipe for Napa Chicken Salad using this week's hazelnuts and next week's Succulent Chinese Chicken. This gives you time to purchase some hazelnuts, toast and skin them, and keep a bag ready in the freezer.
In the meantime, the Hazelnut Marketing Board of Oregon (where 99% of the US Hazelnuts are grown) shares these hazelnut recipes:
Toasting and Skinning Hazelnuts
To toast and skin hazelnuts, spread shelled hazelnuts on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake in a 275 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until the skins crack, then roll the hazelnuts in an old, clean towel and rub until skins flakes off. (Tip: Rub the skins outdoors for easy clean-up). Don't be concerned if some of the skin stays on—it adds a pleasant contrasting color and flavor.
Buy in bulk: Hazelnuts enhance the taste of salads, savory dishes, and desserts, and they're especially heavenly when eaten with a bite of chocolate. It's worth buying a large bag of them, toasting and skinning them all at once, then storing the prepared hazelnuts in a zipper bag in the freezer—they'll keep up to 2 years frozen. Buy them in bulk at whole food stores and some farmers' markets.
Crushing Tip: To crush hazelnuts into smaller pieces, place them in a bag and smash them with the side of a can or rolling pin. Unless the recipe calls for fine crumbs, don't crush them too small: they taste best when chunky and crunchy.
Hazelnuts are good for you!
One ounce (about 25 to 30 hazelnuts, or less than 1/4 cup) contains...
- 75% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of the antioxidant Vitamin E
- mostly unsaturated fat (94% of the fat is unsaturated)
- 31% of the RDI for Vitamin B6
- 2 grams of fiber, important in preventing certain cancers
- 18% of the RDI for folacin, an aid to preventing birth defects
- 20% of the RDI for magnesium, a mineral required by all cells
- 21% of the RDI for copper, which helps the body absorb iron
For a free set of 6 hazelnut recipe cards, write to the Hazelnut Marketing Board, 21595-A Dolores Way N.E., Aurora, OR 97002-9738, or visit their website at www.oregonhazelnuts.org.
Recipe copyright 1998, by Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created 1998